In the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association backed a free shooting simulator called NRA: Practice Range. The iTunes app was rated ages 4 years old and up. Was, because political pressure caused Apple to reclassify the game as 12 years old and up.
The app is an "Official NRA Licensed Product," and it allows players to fire a variety of weapons in shooting ranges. While the app is free, you can unlock an AK47 assault rifle for just $0.99. Initially, Apple rates apps ages 4 and up if they "contain no objectionable materials."
"It is the height of hypocrisy," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pushing for greater gun control. "If you remember the head of the NRA's speech on television, he blamed violent children's games for causing things like the terrible tragedy in Connecticut." Continuing, Bloomberg said (via CBS) the decision to release the app this Monday was "mind-boggling."
Monday was the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
"How dumb can you get? How insulting can you be? They are tone deaf. You can quote me on any of that," Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said on Tuesday (via NBC).
Sen. Charles Schumer from New York called on Apple to raise the game's rating to 17 years old and up. On Tuesday afternoon, Apple changed the app's rating to 12 years old and up.
"Apple did the right thing by acknowledging that this game isn't for young children, but should go farther and make the restrictions as tight as possible," said Schumer. (via NBC) "The NRA has acted in an unbelievably hypocritical fashion by blaming the nation's gun violence on video games and movies, then coming out with a game for children featuring assault weapons. Apple should not facilitate children using it."
Last December, a week after the shooting, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre laid the blame on video games like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse as well as movies. Said LaPierre, "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry, that sells and sows violence against its own people."
As game designer and academic Ian Bogost told Kotaku, the app serves as part of the NRA's campaign to present gun ownership as part of sportsmanship and present the game as an educational tool. "For example," Bogost told Kotaku, "when game devs and critics call the game 'terrible,' as some have done, the NRA can simply respond that our community must only want to partake of the violent uses of firearms, and that's why we are unable to appreciate a firing range simulator."