What is the JR-15 assault rifle? Is it being marketed to children in the US?

Manufactured by Wee1 Tactical, the JR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle is a smaller and lighter version of the AR-15. The company at the Las Vegas unveiling of its weapon last month displayed cartoon skulls and crossbones that resembled children

FP Explainers January 30, 2023 22:14:49 IST
What is the JR-15 assault rifle? Is it being marketed to children in the US?

The banner on the Wee1 website. Image courtesy: wee1tactical.com

Weeks after a six-year-old shot his teacher, a child-size assault rifle reportedly marketed to children is causing anger and outrage.

Manufactured by  Wee1 Tactical, the JR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle is a smaller and lighter version of the AR-15.

The AR-15, of course, has gained notoriety for being used in several high-profile shootings in the United States.

Democratic lawmakers have demanded that WEE1 Tactical halt its marketing campaign that reportedly targets children.

“What are we coming to?” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“With the epidemic of youth gun violence and mass shootings, an idea like this, a children’s AR-15, should just not see the light of day,” he said.

At a press conference, Schumer and several other Democratic senators urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against the company.

“The law says you shouldn’t be marketing guns to kids,” he said, calling it “despicable.”

Let’s take a closer look at the JR-15:

What is it?

WEE1 Tactical on its website describes the JR-15 as a .22 Long Rifle that functions like a modern sporting rifle.

It adds that its small size, lightweight rugged polymer construction, and ergonomics are geared towards ‘smaller enthusiasts.’

As per Vice, while .22s are usually used for hunting small game, this one has a  ‘distinctly military and tactical look similar to an AR-15’.

The website also displays a picture of a child firing the weapon next to an adult.

The website said the company’s goal was to build a truly unique shooting platform that lets a parent or coach safely teach a younger enthusiast.

“The JR-15 is smaller, weighs less, and has a patented safety,” the website states.

The company in a November press release announcing the gun’s launch said it was a “smaller, safer, lighter” version of the AR-15.

The press release further stated that the weapon is around 20 per cent smaller than a full-sized AR-15, but “operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”

“We believe that this introduction early on will produce a deep respect for firearms that continue and last for a lifetime of safety,” WEE1 stated in the press release.

The company says its guns come with a patented safety lock that “provides an added level of safety available on no other rifle in production,” as per The National.

The website The National quoted Wee1 as saying that the JR-15 is a “youth training rifle” for “adults who wish to supervise the safe introduction of hunting and shooting sports to the next generation of responsible gun owners”.

Failure to launch

The weapon was unveiled at the 2022 SHOT show in Las Vegas, as per The Independent.

The event was sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – a firearms industry trade group.

The company at the Las Vegas unveiling of its weapon last month displayed cartoon skulls and crossbones that resembled children, according to The New Republic.

What is the JR15 assault rifle Is it being marketed to children in the US

The promotional material at the Las Vegas unveiling of the JR-15. Image courtesy: Wayback machine

One that resembled a boy had a blonde mohawk and a green pacifier. The other, which resembled a girl, had blonde pigtails, pink bows, and a pink pacifier. Both had a rifle sight in their left eye.

The company has toned down its marketing since its unveiling, as per the website

A WEE1 spokesperson told Motherboard the company decided to make it “clearer in our marketing materials that our product is a training rifle designed with the safety and functionality to assist adults wishing to supervise the introduction of hunting and shooting sports to the next generation of responsible gun owners” after feedback from “enthusiastic” retailers.

But others remain unimpressed.

Josh Sugarmann, founder and executive director of the Violence Policy Center, told Motherboard it seems likely the change in tone was a reaction to the outrage and California passing a law banning advertising guns to children.

“Most people found that, obviously, repulsive and grotesque,” Sugarmann added.

California governor Gavin Newsom tweeted:


Newsom also vowed to implement new measures to ‘hold gun manufacturers accountable for the deaths their products caused’.

The Independent quoted gun safety group Newton Action Alliance chairman Po Murray as saying, The callousness of the National Shooting Sports Foundation to promote a children’s version of the same type of assault rifle that was used in a horrific mass shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators in our shared community is just the latest proof that the organization, and the gun manufacturers it represents, will do anything in pursuit of continued profits.”

The newspaper also quoted Kathleen Sances, president and chief executive of gun safety group One Aim Illinois, as warning that this would potentially “increase the threat of gun death and injury to children here and across the nation.”

Schumer and the other senators referenced a spate of recent mass shootings in the United States and the shooting of a schoolteacher in Virginia by a six-year-old child.

“The last thing we need to be doing is reducing in size these deadly weapons of war and then marketing them to children,” Schumer said. “But that’s what’s happening.”

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said gun manufacturers were using the “tobacco company playbook” to lure younger customers.

“They want more Americans to use these weapons and they’re hooking them to the young with the JR-15,” Durbin said.

The other Illinois senator, Tammy Duckworth, called for a ban on military-style assault weapons altogether, an appeal echoed by President Joe Biden.

“It’s time we pass an assault weapons ban in this country,” Biden tweeted on Thursday. “We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

“I urge both chambers of Congress to act quickly and deliver this ban to my desk where I’ll promptly sign it into law,” he said.

With inputs from agencies

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