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NRA accused of 'sick joke' over shooting range game

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The US National Rifle Association (NRA) has been criticised over a new shooting range mobile game released just a month after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

Available now for the iPhone and iPad, NRA: Practice Range is a shooting practice simulator that has been approved for children as young as 4.

'NRA: Practice Range' screenshot

© MEDL MOBILE



The NRA said that the 3D game - involving users shooting virtual Beretta, Colt or M16 guns at targets - "instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations". The organisation also said that the game "strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education".

It is free to play, with options to pay 69p for more guns. The app also features a range of NRA resources, including news, facts on gun laws, educational material and "safety tips".

But the game has been described as a "sick joke", having been released at a time of growing calls for gun law reform in the US following the fatal shooting of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

US vice-president Joe Biden is expected to today (January 15) recommend new plans for gun control at the White House.

Many early reviews of NRA: Practice Range have noted that NRA head Wayne LaPierre only recently denounced video games as "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people".

In a speech after the Sandy Hook tragedy, LaPierre also blamed games and other entertainment for bringing a "toxic mix of reckless behaviour and criminal cruelty right into our homes".

In a review of the NRA game on iTunes headlined "Hypocrites", a user called Papershipsonfire wrote: "Is this some kind of sick joke? The NRA complains about violent games and then releases one a week later. Sure you're not shooting at humans but does it really matter? F***ing ridiculous. I hope this gets pulled off the App Store."

'NRA: Practice Range' screenshot

© MEDL MOBILE

'NRA: Practice Range' screenshot

© MEDL MOBILE



In another review titled "Really?", Mansonr6 added: "What a dumb move. Good luck getting anyone to take your video game theory serious after this."

But rather than being a PR gaffe, game designer and author Ian Bogost feels that the new app is a calculated move by the NRA in the face of criticism.

He feels that it is part of the organisation's positioning of gun ownership and use as "a practice of sportsmanship and as participation in an existing community of 'responsible gun owners'".

Speaking to Kotaku, Bogost said: "Contrary to immediate reaction among some of the game playing and development community, the NRA's presentation of the game as an educational tool fit for kids will read as consistent with their overall project and message among NRA supporters.

"It also serves a rhetorical function as a PR-baiting tool. For example, 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.

"The point is not whether or not you agree or disagree with the NRA's stances or its media efforts, this game included. But rather, that the game is consistent with and carefully positioned within that rhetoric. It's not some sort of PR mistake, for them."

This is not the NRA's first venture into gaming, as in 2006 it released NRA Gun Club for the PlayStation 2. The title has recently received some mocking reviews on its listing on Amazon.com.

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