As Ethan Crumbley’s Oxford school shooting showed, the United States has a major problem keeping guns out of children’s reach. Despite this, a gun company thought it was a great idea to create an assault rifle just for kids, with real ammo. The JR-15 is modeled after the AR-15 assault rifle, but is 20% smaller and weighs only 2.3 pounds. The weapon is the brainchild of Wee1 Tactical, an Illinois-based weapons company.
Easy access to firearms by children has not only led to deadly attacks like those perpetrated by Crumbley and Timothy Simpkins, but has other lasting effects as well. In New York, police frequently conduct checks on campuses to ensure no weapons are brought in, diverting available resources to where they are needed. It has also left parents nervous, while schools struggle to find ways to protect children in case they are attacked.
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According to Everytown Research, 18,000 children and teens are shot and killed each year, making firearms the leading cause of death among people aged 1 to 19. This figure represents not only homicides, but also worrying suicides. Still, Wee1 Tactical thought it was a good idea to release an assault rifle just for kids.
Who owns Wee1 Tactical?
The owner of the company has been identified as Eric Schmid, who also owns Schmid Tool. He was seen promoting the JR-15 in several YouTube videos of SHOT Show 2022. According to a LinkedIn profile, the based businessman has owned Schmid Tool since May 1995. The only other thing the profile mentions is that he graduated in 1995 from the University. from Utah with a BFA degree.
Interestingly, Schmid Tool’s website claims to be a “female owned family business”, so it’s unclear how Schmid is connected to the company. The company specializes in “precision CNC machining and turning services” and “custom assembly services”. Fast Company’s report on the story states that Wee1 is an offshoot of Schmid Tool, which appears to be the case since both companies’ logos can be seen on SHOT Show on YouTube. A press release also states that Schmid Tool has been “in the firearms market for over 40 years”, with over 30 years of experience supplying “firearms components to our customers in the AR market -15”.
Little is known about Schmid, who appears to maintain a very low profile online. He has no public Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, and the Wee1 Tactical website does not mention his name at all. In fact, the only way we know he’s associated with the brand is through multiple YouTube videos, including one from the official SHOT Show channel. In this video, Schmid says the company logo “Keeps the wow factor with the kids.” In this video he also talks about the JR-15 and its benefits.
“Safety was so at the forefront of our thought process,” says a promotional PDF for the JR-15. A press release states that “we have developed and patented a tamper-proof safety that allows the adult to control the gun safety switch.” otherwise, the JR-15 is designed to look and feel like an AR-15. The company says the gun is intended to “safely help adults introduce children to shooting sports.”
However, it seems that the company has more than sports in mind. “Our goal was to develop a shooting rig that was not only sized correctly and safe, but looked, felt and operated like mom and dad’s gun,” the PDF reads. The gun appears to support live ammunition, in single, five, or 10-round magazines. The news has gun control activists reacting with horror. “I think what makes the WEE1 JR-15 really so awful is the fact that it says the quiet part out loud. There’s no shame,” said Josh Sugarmann, Founder and Director Executive of the Violence Policy Center.
Even California Governor Gavin Newsom weighed in, tweeting, “It’s VILE. A skull and crossbones with a pacifier on a weapon of war. Made to look ‘cute’ to appeal to kids. Maker calls this a ‘JR-15.’ Every NRA-backed politician should condemn this,” February 17, 2022.
A skull and crossbones with a pacifier on a weapon of war.
Made to look “cute” to appeal to children.
The manufacturer calls it a “JR-15”.
Every NRA-backed politician should condemn this. pic.twitter.com/VmsqaiCuEM
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) February 17, 2022
“I’ve never seen one that was just a blatant offensive and tactical weapon of war,” noted Ryan Busse, a former firearms official. He added: “To say that they are not lethal is a joke. However, the backlash seems to have done little to dampen Wee1’s enthusiasm. The company still promotes the gun on Facebook and calls on dealers to sell the gun on its website.