Nearly a month to the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the nation's top gun advocate has released an iPhone game that allows kids aged 4 and up to simulate firing guns.
The move drew immediate ire from gun control advocates and prompted New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to appeal to Apple to raise the age restriction on the free app to 17, the New York Daily News reported. Apple responded late Tuesday, changing the age rating from 4-and-up to 12-and-up, citing "frequent/intense realistic violence."
The game in question, NRA: Practice Range, available for free in the iTunes store, allows players to shoot bullseyes and human-shaped targets using real-life firearms such as an AK-47, M9 handgun, and a pump-action shotgun. The game's release comes as the National Rifle Association deals with increased scrutiny in the debate over the nation's gun laws that followed the Sandy Hook massacre. The brouhaha over the app comes on the eve of an announcement of a series of gun control measures from President Obama, following recommendations from a task force set up after the shootings headed by Vice President Joe Biden.
The NRA made its recommendations clear in a press conference shortly after Sandy Hook in which NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed violent video games.
"Guns don't kill people. Video games, the media and Obama's budget kill people," LaPierre said at the Dec. 21 press conference. "There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like 'Bulletstorm,' 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Splatterhouse.'"
On the description of Practice Range, game developer Medl Mobile bills it as "a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations" which allows for "the most authentic experience possible." The app was recommended for ages 4 and up, which has added to the criticism the game and its developers have received.
In a tweet it has since deleted, Medl Mobile responded to one question about age guidelines by saying "the NRA app is to promote gun safety, not 'for kids aged 4+'".
iTunes' gives ratings for games based on their content using age groups such as 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+. Neither Medl Mobile nor NRA has responded to requests for comment on the game.
The reviews for the game have been mixed thus far. Technology website CNET called Practice Range "badly designed" with "frankly quite awful controls."
In the app store, the game has 3.5 stars, with nearly 500 ratings. The vast majority either gave the game five stars, the highest, or one star, the lowest. The review headlines for those who rated the game highly include "Relaxing Fun," "Fun non-violent firearm game," and "Made Liberals Whine." Headlines for those who rated it poorly include "Poor gameplay," "ridiculous," and "Amateur."
The NRA has two other apps, both of which serve as resources for gun rights and legislation, which Practice Range also features.