A month after Newtown, here comes a new shooting app—“NRA: Practice Range.” That’s right, it’s from those same tone-deaf folks who blamed video games for all of society’s gun-related ills. Originally targeted for ages 4 and up, it has now been rebranded for ages 12 and up.
Currently listed as iTunes’ #3 rated app download, “NRA: Practice Range” stands just behind Ruzzle (a word game) and Fun Run (a game described as a competition between cute furry creatures) and ahead of Google Maps.
The app sets up a shooting range and offers users the chance to fire away indoors, outdoors or at a skeet shoot. After you choose your venue and skill level, the opening screen shows one of ten brief safety tips, such as. “Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting,” or one of four NRA factoids like. “The NRA Eddie Eagle Gunsafe® Program has reached more than 256 million children—in all 50 states—since 1998.”
Then you are invited to “Start Shooting.” You can accept the default weapon or for just $0.99 you can upgrade to something like an AK47 or a Dragunov SVD (a Russian semiautomatic sniper’s rifle.) From there you enter a poorly designed shooting range scenario that is neither educational nor entertaining.
As one reviewer on iTunes put it, “Whatever you think about the NRA, this app is horrible. I was a competitive target shooter, both pistol and rifle, for many years and from a technical standpoint, this app is horrible. There is no sight alignment and trigger control associated with this shooting. It is just about blasting out bullets. No control required. Nothing learned.”
The main page of the app provides a menu of connections to the NRA/ILA’s website. In case you’re not aware, the ILA portion of the title stands for the Institute for Legislative Action. It is the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association of America. On the site, you’ll see banners proclaiming, “FIGHT FOR FREEDOM. Our second amendment rights are under siege like never before,” “Gun owners enter the fight of our lives,” and “The semi-auto ban: is it back already?”
Given the game’s incredibly poor technical design, the real purpose of this app seems clear: blast the NRA’s propaganda into the hands of young gamers.
Paul Tassi, a contributor to Forbes, writes news and opinion about video games, technology and the internet. In a recent post, he looks at the NRA app this way:
The most outspoken critic of the video game industry in the weeks after the Sandy Hook shooting has been the NRA, content to shift the blame for the tragedy, and all others like it, away from guns. They’ve specifically called out games like Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse as being contributors to mass murder, while calling for more real world guns as a solution to the problem.
Tassi is a fan of video games in general and has no problem with shooting games. However, he has a clear view of what’s going on. In a second post he expands his take on the NRA, its hypocrisy and the American fixation on firearms.
If the NRA approves of guns being used for target practice, hunting, self-defense, war or a justified revolution, why would they condemn games that merely use any of those concepts as their subject matter? If the NRA supports a game about virtual target shooting, why would they be opposed to one about virtual war or a game where a gun is used to protect others from evil?
Is it because of the blood? Because it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns when someone gets shot in real life, and games reflect that.
Is it because it’s “sensational?” Because ads like this aren’t sensationalizing guns at all.
Is it because the media is a corruptible influence? Here’s a hint. It’s because we love real life guns so much as a society that violent shooter games are so popular. A society that is inherently fascinated with violence creates violent media, it’s not the other way around.
Before Bill Kesler retired in 2007 as vice-president of production for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he worked for more than 20 years as a photojournalist.