For Release: Tuesday, January 17, 2023
After Going Underground for a Year, WEE1 Tactical Returns with a Kinder, Gentler Marketing Campaign for its “JR-15” Child Assault Rifle
Washington, DC — Roughly one year after provoking outrage and condemnation nationwide after it was revealed by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) that gun manufacturer WEE1 Tactical was launching sales of the “JR-15” – a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle designed specifically for children – the company has now begun a new marketing campaign for the gun.
Until recently, little was heard from WEE1 Tactical, including their website being reduced to a query contact form. However, WEE1 Tactical is once again scheduled to appear at this year’s SHOT Show at Booth 42943, the annual closed-to-the-public gun industry trade show held January 17th through 20th in Las Vegas, only miles from the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
The child-size assault rifle is 20 percent smaller than a standard AR-15 and weighs less than two and a half pounds. Originally, the gun’s marketing was dominated by cartoons of a skull and crossbones of a boy and girl (see below). The boy’s skull had a blonde mohawk haircut and a green pacifier and the girl’s skull had blonde pigtails with pink bows and a pink pacifier. Both had one eye a black void and the other a rifle sight.
On its website in 2022, the company then boasted, “The BRAND is meant to be EDGY. We believe its [sic] exciting and will build brand recognition and loyalty!” Or, as WEE1 Tactical’s Eric Schmid explained in a 2022 promotional SHOT Show video, the logo “Keeps the wow factor with the kids.” The company promised that the children’s assault rifle “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”
A year later, in a new flyer the “wow factor” graphics for “the kids” are gone, replaced by a little girl pointing the rifle toward the reader with her “Parent or Coach” by her side. The company no longer promotes the fact that the gun is a child-size AR-15 assault rifle but instead states that the gun “functions like a modern sporting rifle” – the gun industry’s self-generated euphemism for military-bred assault rifles. Characterizing the guns as “a small piece of American freedom” that represent “American Family Values,” the company promises that the “JR-15 is the first in a line of shooting platforms designed to safely help adults introduce young enthusiasts to the shooting sports.” According to its new website (which now requires visitors to attest that they are 18 years of age or older as a result of a June 2022 California law banning the marketing of guns to children), “WEE1 TACTICAL is now taking orders for the JR-15.”
Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center and author of the group’s 2016 report, “Start Them Young”—How the Firearms Industry and Gun Lobby Are Targeting Your Children, states, “WEE1 Tactical has adopted this supposedly kinder, gentler marketing approach because it knows from experience that most Americans are shocked and disgusted by the idea of manufacturing semiautomatic assault rifles designed for grade schoolers. The company’s persistence in selling assault rifles for children makes clear the need for continued vigilance by parents and communities as well as legislative action.”
The cancerous results of this marketing effort are already being seen. Last July, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) disturbingly suggested in a tweet – which contained a picture of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi next to a blow-up of advertising material for the JR-15 as she spoke against the gun on the House floor – that the students attacked in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting “needed JR-15s to defend themselves” against the shooter who was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle.
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter and Facebook.