NRA's iPhone shooting app triggers petition for its removal

An online petition calls NRA: Practice Range an "insult to the victims of gun violence" and is asking Apple to get rid of it.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read
NRA: Practice Range
NRA: Practice Range Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

A new shooting game bearing the NRA name has enraged a number of people who are now petitioning Apple to remove it from the App Store.

Released this past Sunday, NRA: Practice Range features a virtual shooting gallery in which you can fire at targets by tapping the screen. The app offers you a few handguns and rifles for free, but you can upgrade to such weapons as an AK-47 assault rifle or an MK-11 sniper rifle.

Compared with scores of other video games, NRA: Practice Range is rather tame, despite the ability to use assault and sniper rifles. You're not firing at actual people but rather static and moving targets, just as you would at an actual shooting range. But it's the timing of the app amidst the nation's concern over gun violence that has aroused much of the anger.

The online petition at SignOn.org condemns the release of the app just one month after the tragic Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn.:

Apple: The National Rifle Association's new app "NRA: Practice Range" is an insult to the victims of gun violence, having been launched on the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Out of respect for the victims and to signal Apple's support for common sense measures to help end gun violence, we call on you to rescind your approval of this shameless new product.

Started by a group called Courage Campaign, the petition is looking to meet a goal of 2,000 signatures. As of this morning, it had collected almost 1,700.

Based on certain objections from the group, Apple has already tweaked the description of the NRA app following its release. Initially deemed suitable for ages four and up, the app is now rated for those 12 and over for its "frequent/intense realistic violence."

Courage Campaign called that move a "step in the right direction," but wants the app itself banned, labeling it "shameless, insensitive, and counterproductive, whether played by a 4-year-old or a teenager."

The app can also be seen as hypocritical given the NRA's recent attack on violent video games. A week after the Sandy Hook massacre, NRA President Wayne Lapierre put some of the blame for the shootings on such games, calling them a "callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."

Of course, the NRA would argue that its app offes nothing like the violence in such games as Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse, and Kindergarten Killer, all of which Lapierre condemned in his press conference.

Certainly, Lapierre's blame of video games is a way for him to sidestep any role the NRA plays in the easy access to guns in this society. But it does yet again open up the whole debate on the influence of violent video games.

As one of his new proposals for tighter gun control, President Obama wants Congress to fund a study by the Centers for Disease Control to examine the the impact of video games on real-world violence.