Eleven Democratic Senators are demanding that the Federal Trade Commission launch an investigation into the marketing of guns to children, specifically focusing on a company marketing an “AR-15 style” weapon for kids.
The letter, which will be sent on Wednesday, continues gun control advocates’ new strategy of focusing on the marketing of firearms. Earlier this year, families of some of the victims of the 2012 Newtown Elementary School massacre settled with gunmaker Remington for $74 million after arguing the company’s marketing had targeted troubled men.
The FTC has the power to investigate “unfair or deceptive” marketing. The senators, led by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, argue that the marketing of guns to children is inherently “unfair,” even if there is nothing deceptive about a company’s advertising. They specifically point to a new company, WEE1 Tactical, that has started selling a “JR-15,” which is intended to serve as a kids’ version of the AR-15, an assault rifle that is the most popular firearm in America.
“For years, Republicans bankrolled by the NRA have put the safety of their campaign donations ahead of the safety of the American people,” Markey told HuffPost in a statement. “Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough while Republicans in Congress block common-sense gun safety efforts. We have to use every tool at our disposal. I’m calling on the FTC to crack down on dangerous and irresponsible marketing tactics peddling AR-15 style assault rifles to children too young to use the stove, much less a firearm.”
“These are weapons of war that have no place in the hands of our nation’s children, and can cause them substantial harm and even death,” the senators wrote to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “The United States is in the midst of an epidemic of gun violence. Our young people, who routinely conduct safety drills focused on school shooters, acutely feel this crisis.”
WEE1 Tactical began selling the JR-15 last November, saying it was intended to be safer and lighter for kids to handle. The company’s Facebook page includes photos of children using the weapon, and the packaging declares: “Get ’em one like yours.”
The company’s logo is a skull and crossbones with a pacifier.
“We worked hard on that logo,” the letter quotes the company’s owner as saying. “It’s pretty exciting. That keeps the ‘wow’ factor with the kids, I think.”
“These alarming statements demonstrate that there is one target market for this dangerous firearm: America’s children,” the senators wrote.
Gun control groups and Democratic politicians have focused on the JR-15 in the past. California Gov. Gavin Newsom called it “vile.”
WEE1 has argued that children can learn firearm safety at a young age and that it will ultimately help them use guns safely throughout their lives.
“We believe that this introduction early on will produce a deep respect for firearms that continue and last for a lifetime of safety,” the company wrote in a press release.
Countless American children are already exposed to firearms: One out of three homes with a child also has at least one gun, and it’s common in many states for parents to take teenagers and children hunting.
A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that gun violence had surpassed motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of death among American children and teenagers, with gun deaths increasing 30% from 2019 to 2020.