Outraged Democratic lawmakers called Thursday for a halt to a marketing campaign aimed at children for a semi-automatic rifle called the JR-15. "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, referring to a popular military-style weapon.
At a press conference, Schumer and several other Democratic senators urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against the company, Wee1 Tactical, that makes the JR-15.
"The law says you shouldn't be marketing guns to kids," he said, calling it "despicable." On its website, Wee1 promotes the .22 caliber JR-15 as a lightweight semi-automatic rifle "geared towards smaller enthusiasts."
The Chicago-based company said the gun is about 20 percent smaller than the standard AR-15 and can have five- or 10-round magazines.
"We are excited and honored to provide a quality product that will assist families in safely passing on the proud American tradition of responsible gun ownership to the next generation of recreational shooting and hunting enthusiasts," the company said.
The Wee1 website includes a picture of a child firing the weapon next to an adult. 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.