The National Rifle Association has been taking an awful lot of heat for its new game NRA: Practice Range, a shooting game released for iOS devices on January 14, 2013. The game puts you in a shooting range, gives you various guns, and lets you shoot at targets from a first-person perspective. Along with that, it also provides safety tips during loading times and links to various gun legislation websites. However, this little app has caused a firestorm in the media, with various sources deeming it insensitive, promoting gun violence, and hypocritical. At this point, I would like to state that I am not affiliated with the NRA in any way, and actually disagree with most of their basic tenets (specifically, my right to own an assault rifle. I, and no other person, need that, unless they are soldiers). With that said, I donít understand why this particular game is catching so much flak.
The main contention that people seem to have with Practice Range is the insensitivity of the timing. Released on January 14, 2013, a month to the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the timing is absolutely horrendous. It seems to show a basic lack of decency to release a game that teaches small children how to shoot with such a tragic event so fresh in the publicís minds. However, there was another major shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012 (which, incidentally, took place about 5 minutes from my home). Letís take a look at a game that came out a month and a day after this occurred.
Thatís a screenshot from the game Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which was released on August 21, 2012, featuring a man being gunned down. Now, letís look at NRA: Practice Range.
Obviously, the graphics are worlds apart, but there is a lot more to the situation than that. The issue that everyone seems to have with Practice Range is the release date. However, while the NRA is currently taking the full force of the publicís hatred by releasing a shooting game, Valve, who also released a shooter a month after a senseless shooting, seemed to walk away unscathed. Iím not saying that the NRA was fully in the right in doing what they did, but this is a definite case of a double-standard. What applies to one game should apply to all or none.
It also seems that people believe that Practice Range promotes gun violence. There is even a petition to have Apple pull it from their App Store, citing that it would, ďsignal Apple's support for common sense measures to help end gun violence,Ē and calling the app itself, ďshameless, insensitive and counterproductive.Ē While the game is indeed shameless, at least from a self-promotion stance, I feel that it does no more to promote gun violence than any other shooting game. If I were to believe that video games did indeed promote violence, my finger would be much more likely to point in the direction of a Call of Duty, a Counter Strike, or a Grand Theft Auto game, rather than NRA: Practice Range. At least the latter doesnít have you shooting at (virtually) living targets, which the former games have you doing in copious amounts.
Another portion of this argument is that Practice Range was originally recommended for players 4 and up (later changed to 12 and up), which does seem like a fairly young age for gun training. However, itís fairly normal in certain areas for young children to be taught firearm safety (like Alabama, my home state). I would imagine that at least 99 percent of these children do not go on to be homicidal maniacs. On top of that, there is no actual violence in this game, thus nullifying the need for a higher rating. Itíd be like not allowing kids to punch a punching bag, since it simulates punching an actual person.
The final charge that is being leveled at this game is that of the NRAís hypocrisy. After the Sandy Hook shooting, Wayne LaPierre, vice-president of the NRA, held a press conference where he essentially laid the blame squarely at the feet of video games and other violent media, stating,
ďThere exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Splatterhouse.Ē
While this is clearly ridiculous for so many reasons, many people see releasing a shooting game less than a month after they blamed video games for all the violence in America as the definition of hypocrisy. However, if you place yourself in the NRAís shoes for just a minute, you can easily see what they were attempting to do. They made a game that had no violence, yet still featured guns and safety tips. This is the NRAís answer to all the games that they believe are destroying American youth. It is also very self-serving and self-promotional, but thatís beside the point. I feel that they are attempting to do what they believe to be right, as misguided as they are.
Overall, the point that I am trying to make is that the National Rifle Association seems to be on the receiving end of a situation that they are usually on the opposite side of: this time, theyíre the convenient scapegoat. When something as horrifying as the Sandy Hook Elementary or Aurora shootings occur, our minds reel in an attempt to find something to blame, something to fix, that caused all this. Itís severely easy to point at pop culture and say, ďHey, this game/movie/book/television show is violent! Thatís what it is; letís get rid of it.Ē But itís not that easy. Itís frightening to think of, but there are just people who are willing to commit atrocities for no reason whatsoever, and the arts donít cause it. While the NRA would have been better served to push their game back a few months, the game has received caused far more controversy than is necessary. It is a non-violent, simple target-practice game, and nothing more. So, please quit concentrating on NRA: Practice Range, and concentrate on their horrible stance on gun control. Thatís something worth getting angry about.