Anti-gun activists condemn ‘vile’ AR-15 for kids
California Governor Gavin Newsom has criticized an Illinois company for making a “vile” version of the popular AR-15 rifle marketed to children. Anti-gun activists have also condemned the weapon, which is smaller, lighter, and allegedly safer than its adult-sized equivalent.
Unveiled at last month’s SHOT show in Las Vegas, the ‘JR-15’ is a lightweight .22 caliber rifle aimed at the young shooter. Manufacturer WEE1 Tactical says it’s got some extra safety features that full-sized AR-15 rifles don’t – like a tamper-resistant safety switch controlled by an adult – but “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”
The weapon, its manufacturers claim, “will build confidence and teach responsibility.”
Newsom doesn’t agree. A vocal gun control advocate, the governor last week called the weapon “VILE,” pointing to an engraving of a skull and crossbones sucking a pacifier on its receiver and calling it a “weapon of war” that had been “made to look ‘cute’ to appeal to kids.”
This is VILE. A skull & crossbones with a pacifier on weapon of war. Made to look “cute” to appeal to kids. The manufacturer calls this a “JR-15.”Every NRA-backed politician should condemn this. pic.twitter.com/VmsqaiCuEM— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 17, 2022
“At first glance this comes across as a grotesque joke. On second look, it’s just grotesque,” Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Centre, told the Independent.
"The callousness of the National Shooting Sports Foundation to promote a children's version of the same type of assault rifle that was used in a horrific mass shooting of 20 first-graders … is just the latest proof that the organization, and the gun manufacturers it represents, will do anything in pursuit of continued profits," said Po Murray, chairwoman of Newton Action Alliance.
Murray’s organization was formed in the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, in which a 20-year-old shot and killed 20 elementary school children and six teachers with an AR-15 style weapon.
Aside from its military styling and kid-friendly engraving, the JR-15 is technically no different to the single-shot .22 rifles commonly used to teach marksmanship to children across the US. While the rifle can be outfitted with multiple-round magazines, it comes as standard with a single-round detachable magazine.
Under federal law, there is no restriction on the possession of long guns and ammunition by minors.
The AR-15 and associated rifles have become powerful symbols in the gun control argument in the US. Critics like Newsom say these rifles are “weapons of war” that don’t belong in civilian hands, while enthusiasts say they’re versatile sporting and self-defense weapons that have been unfairly maligned by the media.
Gun violence has soared across the US since 2020, with 20,822 gun murders recorded in 2021, up from just over 15,000 in 2019, according to figures from the Gun Violence Archive. Despite the AR-15’s role as a symbol of gun violence in the US, the overwhelming majority of firearms homicides are committed with handguns, with rifles used in only 3% of fatal shootings.