In May 2022, Senator Markey led 10 of his colleagues in writing to the FTC urging the Commission to investigate WEE1 Tactical, maker of the 'JR-15'
Washington (January 26, 2023) - Following a series of mass shootings in the last several days, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calf.) in holding a press conference today to urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Chicago-based WEE1 Tactical’s marketing and advertising tactics related to a ‘JR-15’ assault-style weapon that is meant to be a children’s version of the AR-15.
“I am once again calling on the FTC to step up and use its authority to crack down on gunmakers who market their deadly weapons to America’s youth, putting profits over people and sales over safety,” said Senator Markey. “The deceptive and deadly marketing behind the ‘JR-15’ is grotesque and reflects the depth of the gun industry’s moral depravity. The FTC must act now to protect our nation’s children.”
“The last thing we need to be doing is shrinking deadly weapons of war and marketing them to young children,” said Senate Majority Leader Schumer. “We must stop the raining of bullets on children and rein in this horrendous and gross marketing campaign, so others just like it don’t pop up. The FTC has the power and the proof to take a hard look at this dangerous ‘JR-15’ marketing effort.”
“Companies like Wee 1 Tactical, which I’m sorry to say is based in Illinois, are trying to get kids to use weapons that look like military-style rifles. They want more Americans to use these weapons, and they’re trying to hook them when they’re young with the JR-15. It’s straight out of the tobacco companies’ playbook. This kind of marketing is reckless. It’s dangerous. And it needs to stop,” said Senator Durbin. “I join my colleagues in urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate this marketing. And the Senate Judiciary Committee will examine ways to hold these reckless companies accountable.”
“The JR-15 may be a smaller version of an assault rifle, but there is nothing smaller about the damage that it can do,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This weapon and these ads are the Joe Camel of the arms industry today. The firearms industry has taken a page from Big Tobacco's book. And here is the lesson of Big Tobacco – we can win. All we need to do is enforce the law. To the FTC I say, use the tools. Use the law that you have right now.”
“This is an open and shut case. This particular company is obviously marketing to kids. That's the entire intention of the gun. But let's just be clear, makers of AR-15s that are being sold today that we think of as being marketed primarily to adults are also being marketed to kids,” said Senator Murphy. “This isn't just about WEE1. This is an industry wide practice that has absolutely devastating consequences because we know the rate of accidental shootings, the number of kids that are getting their hands on guns. I think we pass additional legislation to protect our kids, but we can start by making sure that our existing agencies use the law that they have to make sure that these companies are held accountable when they market weapons of mass destruction to children.”
“I spent 23 years in the military, so I know firsthand how weapons like these are uniquely crafted for the battlefield—how they are built to rip apart enemy combatants so they cannot get back up and shoot back at you on the field of combat,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet those weapons of war are remarkably similar to the kind that this company is trying to seduce our kids into coveting. We cannot and must not allow this to go on another day. Because every minute that we let parasitic companies like this try to trick our babies into buying lethal weapons, we risk witnessing another classroom turning into a massacre.”
“Earlier this week, just as I was returning from visiting a survivor resource center in Monterey Park, I received word of two other mass shooting incidents—in Half Moon Bay and Oakland,” said Senator Padilla. “We are all sick of having our hearts broken by these tragedies and the scourge of gun violence in America. We must ensure that the FTC holds gunmakers accountable for their complacency in the pervasive and deadly culture of gun violence.”
The Senators argued that WEE1 Tactical’s marketing methods are a threat to public safety and violate consumer protection laws. They specifically asked the FTC to look into why WEE1 Tactical is marketing to kids under the age of 18, who are legally not allowed to own guns.
According to WEE1 Tactical’s advertising, “…the JR-15 is the first in a line of shooting platforms that will assist families” and “…functions like a modern sporting rifle, however and most importantly its small size, lightweight & rugged polymer construction and ergonomics are geared towards smaller enthusiasts.” It depicts a very small child operating the weapon with these claims and touts that the “JR-15 is 20% smaller” than an AR-15 and 2.5lbs “lighter”.