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'NRA Practice Range' App Sparks Outrage, Questions

A screen image from "NRA: Practice Range."
MEDL Mobile
A screen image from "NRA: Practice Range."

The appearance Monday of a new iPhone/iPad app called "NRA: Practice Range" is causing controversy. Critics say release of the game one month after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., was callous. And they're also incensed that it's tied to the NRA, which has pinned part of the blame for mass shootings on violent video games.

The app was apparently first rated as approved for children as young as 4 — children even younger than the 20 who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But now the rating is "12+" because of "frequent/intense realistic violence."

The New York Post wrote that the app "spits on the graves of Newtown massacre victims." This afternoon, a progressive group called the Courage Campaign started an online petition asking Apple to drop the app from its store.

Some things about the game have led us to make calls to its developer (MEDL Mobile) and the NRA. So far, we haven't heard back. Neither have the many other organizations who have reached out to them, as far as we can tell.

We're wondering, first of all, just what connection the NRA has to the app or what input it had on the development.

MEDL Mobile's "details" page on the game says it is an "Official NRA Licensed Product." But the "NRA" logo on the app isn't like those on other National Rifle Association official apps — one for NRA news and another that an NRA "gun guide."

The reviews for the app aren't too flattering. CNET.com, for example, says it has "frankly quite awful controls." You'd think the NRA would be more choosy before lending its name to an app that claims to offer "the most authentic experience possible."

The New York Times' Bill Keller is thinking the app might be a hoax. But then why wouldn't the association have immediately issued a disclaimer? There's nothing on NRA's website about the app.

As we said, we have calls into the NRA and the app's developer. We'll update if we do get through to them. And we'll watch for reporting from elsewhere.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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