NRA releases shooting app, finds itself a target in online game

Jan. 15, 2013 | 5:55 p.m.

One month after National Rifle Assn. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed violent entertainment in the wake of the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn., the NRA has released a mobile shooting game that puts players behind virtual handguns and rifles.

Meanwhile, an anti-NRA video game puts LaPierre in its sights.

“NRA: Practice Range,” a free app released Monday for iPhone and iPad, aims to provide “safety, training & education” — with such resources as 2nd Amendment newsfeeds and gun law information centers — but its “target practice” game is stirring up controversy. The 3-D first-person shooting game touts “realistic simulations” that allow gamers “to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.”

National Rifle Association CEO and executive Wayne LaPierre speaks in a nationally televised press conference after the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

National Rifle Assn. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks in a nationally televised press conference after the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The game, officially licensed by the NRA and created by tech startup MEDL Mobile, features nine different firearms, including a Beretta, M16, Mossberg 500 and AK-47, some of which are only available for an additional 99 cents each. Gun safety tips (like “Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use”) appear while the game loads, and players can choose from an indoor range, outdoor range and skeet shoot — all non-living targets.

“Practice Range” is unlikely to become the next smash hit first-person shooter, however — some have complained that the app suffers from slow load times and frequent freezing and features only three free weapons.

“To call it a ‘game’ would be an insult to the term, as it’s really a barely coherent series of horribly controlled minigames that must have been thrown together over the course of the last week with a few loading screen tips thrown in for the ‘gun safety’ selling point,” wrote Paul Tassi in Forbes’ video game blog Insert Coin. “The game itself is borderline unplayable, having the worst controls of any FPS I’ve ever played on iOS. In gyroscopic aiming mode, the game always seems to get stuck 10 feet right of where you’re supposed to shoot, and analog mode somehow manages to produce even less accuracy.”

Jason Schreier, a writer for the online video game publication Kotaku, called the app “quite frankly, totally awful.”

Commenters on the app’s iTunes page are divided.

“Disgusting app,” wrote one commenter, Joyjit Guha. “Absolute trash.”

Others were more positive.

“This is fun and informative plus there is no need for eye and ear protection,” wrote a commenter named Joe. “A must have for any gun enthusiast and defender of the U.S. constitution.”

Initially classified in iTunes as being for users ages 4 and up, the app is now listed for ages 12 and up. It’s not the first NRA shooting video game, but the timing of its release — one month to the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy — has drawn heat from critics crying hypocrisy after LaPierre singled out “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games” in his response to the shootings.

LaPierre himself is the target of a new anti-NRA video game called “Bullet to the Head of the NRA.” The online game depicts LaPierre giving a speech at a podium, cross hairs over his head, then allows users to shoot him.

The bloody game was posted Monday on Encyclopedia Dramatica (warning: link contains profanity), a wiki for online memes, as a downloadable .zip file under the headline “Sandy Hook Shooting Spree FPS” by a user named gizmo01942.

“Share this everywhere, especially gun-nut and anti-game websites,” the poster wrote. “Also see if you can’t send it in to the NRA somehow, like through the feedback on their website or something.”

“Bullet” appears to be part of a larger plan for video game re-creation of the Sandy Hook shooting.

“I’m doing this as my own way to deal with the events, and releasing only because it will entertain you guys, and any controversy it generates will serve as a nifty sociological experiment,” gizmo01942 wrote, asking for readers to help supply “any information you can find on the layout of the school, what it looked like inside and out, how big their classes typically were … and other info that can help re-create the building and those inside it.”

The game is already under fire from video game blogs, conservative websites and at least one lawmaker. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today urged President Barack Obama to denounce the game.

“Making threats against public figures who speak out either for or against gun control prevents us from having a reasonable, thoughtful debate,” the congressman wrote in his open letter. “Although we may have strong disagreements on the best ways to reduce gun violence, it is my hope that we can both agree that video games targeting specific individuals who speak out on this issue, is counterproductive.”

— Noelene Clark


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10 Responses to NRA releases shooting app, finds itself a target in online game

  1. Jay says:

    still not comfortable with my neighbor having a rifle and all I have is a App.

  2. Rudy Cakes says:

    I don't see the connection "critics" are implying by calling the NRA hypocritical. There's absolutely nothing violent happening in the NRA game. Guns are used lawfully for target practice everyday with no victims of any kind. I've fired millions of rounds over my life and no one was ever harmed and no law broken. Ever. People are so disturbed by guns because they lack experience with them. They only know what they learned from TV and movies and then want to make laws based on that. It's ridiculous.

  3. Ted Fentley says:

    Rudy, I agree. Sadly, few will see it that way. LaPierre was CLEARLY talking about games in which people are shot — because that's what he SAID — but it doesn't stop his critics who have raised misquoting him to a high art form. It also doesn't help that people who oppose the NRA apparently don't realize that it is a membership organization made up of people who actually own guns and shoot at targets. Just like in this game.

    NRA decries First person Shooters
    NRA publishes game where players shoot targets
    Media conflates the two — mission accomplished

  4. Alex says:

    Is this article some sort of satire, joke, or something? Are people actually getting upset about an iPad game about shooting at TARGETS and teaches people GUN SAFETY?! What's next, Nintendo's Duck Hunt? This is an embarrassment, even for LA Times.

  5. @jdseiler says:

    Funny how the Republicans masquerade as being "Pro Life".
    I wonder how it is possible to argue that gun rights superseding rights to life for schoolchildren.

  6. shahshikanth says:

    nice games i wan to play

  7. shockwave says:

    How can we play

  8. thirtymiles says:

    Is this the best that Obama's mainstream media can do to chastise the NRA?

  9. spoonyone says:

    And I helped!

  10. guest says:

    being able to shoot with guns in circus stand, fairs, and so on is more than part of America culture…..people are afraid of some pixels now ? Muahahaha !

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