- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2023

Senate Democrats on Thursday requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate gunmaker WEE1 Tactical, accusing the Illinois-based company of flouting laws against marketing firearms to children.

The lawmakers argued that WEE1 Tactical‘s JR-15, a smaller assault rifle modeled after the popular AR-15, is reminiscent of the tobacco campaign ads targeting younger consumers that the FTC cracked down on decades ago.

“I’m asking if this Chicago-area company that makes this sick weapon, the JR-15, might actually be breaking the FTC‘s laws and regulations,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “The last thing we need to be doing is reducing the size of these deadly weapons of war and then marketing them to children, but that’s what’s happening.”

The push comes in the wake of mass shootings in California, as well as a 6-year-old in Virginia shooting his first-grade teacher.

Democratic senators have made similar pleas to the FTC in the past regarding other weapon manufacturers, including last year following the massacre at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

WEE1 Tactical said in a statement to The Washington Times that firearms like the JR-15 have been on the market for decades and that their model has an extra layer of protection for children.

“The JR-15 .22 youth training rifle is for adults who wish to supervise the safe introduction of hunting and shooting sports to the next generation of responsible gun owners. Parents and guardians wanting to pass on this American tradition have been purchasing small caliber, lighter youth training rifles for decades,” the company said. “The JR-15 incorporates a patented safety mechanism that provides an added level of safety available on no other rifle in production.”

The company’s website, cited by Democrats, touts the JR-15’s “small size, lightweight rugged polymer construction and ergonomics” that “are geared toward smaller enthusiasts.”

“Our goal was to build a truly unique shooting platform that a parent or coach can safely use to teach a younger enthusiast. The JR-15 is smaller, weighs less and has a patented safety,” its website says.

Its webpage features what is meant to represent a father-daughter duo looking down the barrel of a JR-15, which Democrats say is further evidence of an illegal marketing campaign.

The company says the firearm has safety features designed for children, including a safety switch that “requires strength and dexterity to release.”

“Thus, adding a level of safety found on no other firearm of any size. Always remember that the most important safety feature of any youth firearm is the adult supervising all activity,” WEE1’s website reads.

Sen. Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrat and leading proponent of stricter gun laws, said the evidence should present the FTC with an “open and shut case.”

“This particular company is obviously marketing to kids. That’s the entire intention of the gun,” he argued.

Democrats, including President Biden, have long sought to reimplement a 1990s-era federal ban on assault-style rifles but have been unsuccessful. Congress did pass bipartisan gun control legislation last year for the first time in decades following the Uvalde shooting to, among other things, enhance background checks and close the boyfriend loophole, which deals with whether unmarried partners can have guns if they’re convicted of violence against someone they’re dating. 

But Mr. Schumer demurred when asked why he hasn’t forced a vote on an assault weapon ban to draw attention to Republicans’ opposition if the issue was such a high priority.

“Nobody cares more about this than me. I’m the author of the assault weapons ban in 1994,” he said. “We are going to keep working to try and get the requisite number of votes to pass it.”

• Ramsey Touchberry can be reached at rtouchberry@washingtontimes.com.

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