U.S. Senate Democrats call for probe into '15' child-size rifle

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Adds Wee 1 Tactical comment

By Gram Slattery and Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Agroup of prominent Democratic U.S. senators including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday to open an investigation into a company they said is marketing a rifle to children.

In a press conference, the lawmakers questioned the marketing techniques of gun manufacturer Wee 1 Tactical, which produces the JR-15 .22 Long Rifle. The similarly named AR-15-style rifle has been used in a number of high-profile deadly shootings in the United States in recent years.

The senators' request comes just days after a trio of mass shootings in California that killed 19 people. Earlier in the month, a 6-year-old boy with a handgun shot and seriously wounded a teacher in Virginia.

"The law says you shouldn't be marketing guns to kids. But there's a company in Chicago that's doing just that," Schumer said of Wee 1 Tactical.

In a statement, Wee 1 Tactical said that its product was meant as a tool to safely teach responsible gun ownership.

"The JR-15 .22 youth training rifle is for adults who wish to supervise the safe introduction of hunting and shooting sports to the next generation of responsible gun owners," the company wrote in a statement.

"The JR-15 incorporates a patented safety mechanism that provides an added level of safety available on no other rifle in production."

Democrats have been attempting to tighten gun control measures in the United States for decades in a bid to tamp down frequent mass shootings. Republicans have largely opposed such measures, saying they infringe on the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Congress last year passed its first significant gun-safety legislation in a decade. It included provisions that would help states keep guns out of the hands of those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and close the so-called boyfriend loophole by blocking gun sales to those convicted of abusing unmarried intimate partners. However, it did not ban sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines.

The investigation request appears to fall outside the FTC's normal purview. The regulator, which declined to comment, enforces antitrust law and rules against deceptive and unfair business practices.

Reporting by Gram Slattery and Diane Bartz; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio


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