Less than three weeks after blaming the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre (in part) on video games, the NRA has launched a target-shooting app intended “for ages 4 and up.”
On December 14, 2012, twenty children and seven adults were brutally slaughtered by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who was armed with three semi-automatic firearms: a .223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, a 10mm Glock 20 SF handgun and a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun. (A fourth weapon, a shotgun, was found in the car Lanza had driven to the school.)
The National Rifle Association (NRA) responded to this tragedy by blaming pretty much everything except guns. In a prepared statement given a week after the massacre, NRA Executive Director Wayne La Pierre placed the blame for gun violence on Hollywood, hurricanes, monsters, and “a national media machine.” It’s worth noting that at the same time the NRA was blaming movies, the NRA’s National Firearms Museum was also running a museum exhibition glorifying “Hollywood Guns.”
The NRA’s blog also offers suggestions on how moviegoers can take a “pointer or two” about the Beretta 92F from Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.
La Pierre also notably blamed video games:
And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country 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. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?
Um, okay. But then it seems at best to be incredibly poor timing for the NRA to release the mobile game NRA: Practice Range right now. Described on iTunes as “the NRA’s new mobile nerve center, delivering one-touch access to the NRA network of news, laws, facts, knowledge, safety tips, educational materials and online resources.” The app is rated for ages 4 and up, meaning it “contains no objectionable materials.”
The officially-licensed NRA app also “offers a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations.” Players can choose from 9 firearms, although while the app is free, it costs 99 cents to upgrade your firearm from a free M9 to an MK11 Sniper Rifle.
To be fair, this app doesn’t simulate graphic violence in the same way as games like Mortal Kombat. In NRA: Practice Range, your four-year-old will only be shooting at a coffin-shaped target, not a person. The same goes for the NRA’s other video games, like NRA: Gun Club, NRA: Xtreme Accuracy Shooting, and NRA: Varmint Hunter.
The NRA’s licensed games aren’t its only connections to the video game industry, however. Gun manufacturers (who financially back the NRA) sign contracts with video game publishers in what amounts to product placement. The New York Times reported in December that for the new game Medal of Honor: Warfare, game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) had partnered with the McMillan Group, a gun manufacturer, and Magpul, which which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons. Medal of Honor: Warfare is also tied to the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
I’m not out to demonize video games, NRA-endorsed or otherwise. There’s plenty of smashing and (blood-free) shooting in games I play with my kids, like LEGO Star Wars.
Obviously, the NRA has the right to make and market games. And like every other group with a political agenda, it has every right to get its message out. It’s just that its message would come across so much more effectively if it wasn’t so clearly full of crap.
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