Commentary: The NRA's callous and stupid shooting app

The Miami HeraldJanuary 27, 2013 

The callousness, the sheer idiocy, of some organizations never ceases to amaze me.

A month after the slaughter of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association has released a new game that lets children fire virtual guns at clay ducks or coffin-shaped targets with bull’s eyes at chest and head levels. The guns of choice include assault and sniper rifles.

“NRA: Practice Range,” developed for the Apple iPhone and iPad, is described as a 3D shooting game that “instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations.”

And how, pray tell, does it do this? Mostly by offering shooting practice in indoor and outdoor settings. The guns include a Colt M-16 assault rifle with 15-round clip, a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun and a Beretta M-9 handgun.

Yes, you read right. Your sixth-grader with a Beretta.

If you haven’t upchucked your morning coffee yet, keep reading. “Practice Range” is free on iTunes, but you can pay 99 cents to expand your virtual arsenal, getting more bang for your buck, as it were. The high-capacity guns you “unlock” include an AK-47 assault rifle and an M-11 sniper rifle, similar to the weapons used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza.

“Most authentic experience possible,” crow the game makers.

Wow! Can’t wait to download it to my iPhone to keep company with the memory game I have there for my granddaughters. My heart flutters at the thought that a pre-schooler can learn to shoot an AK-47 while mastering her letters. (The game was initially rated suitable for children as young as 4; the age went up to 12 after public outrage.)

Is there no limit to the National Rifle Association’s tone deafness? To the insensitivity behind its hyperbolic defense of the Second Amendment? To its stupidity?

One possible mitigating factor — and I’m being magnanimous here — is that the game tries, or pretends to try, to convey safety information. Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. Or, Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

Click “NRA Info” on the opening screen and you get NRA News, Hunting Season, Gun Laws and Legislation, all quite informative, especially the sections that criticize the White House, Democrats in Congress and anybody remotely anti-gun.

None of this, from the virtual M-11 to the NRA propaganda, should be in the hands of children at any time. That it was released so soon after the second-worst school shooting in U.S. history speaks to how out of touch the NRA — and, let’s face it, Apple — is with reality.

For all its rhetoric about the Second Amendment, the NRA is fundamentally a lobby for gun manufacturers. Its CEO likened orders to regulate firearms to orders to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust and denounced video games and other entertainment media as a “toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty.” Earlier this week it released an attack ad that cites Obama’s daughters.

In his first speech after the Sandy Hook shooting, Wayne LaPierre went on to say that the video game industry was “a corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people.”

Hmmm. So what does the NRA introduce days after a school massacre?

LaPierre needs to take a good, long look in the mirror. Whether he can see it or not, the reflection staring back in big bold letters spells H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E.

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