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Il Fatto Quotidiano, Italy

New iTunes App Allows “Practice
with Guns” for Children Four and Older

By Marco Quarantelli

Translated By Micaela Bester

15 January 2013

Edited by Ketu­rah Hetrick

Italy - Il Fatto Quotidiano - Original Article (Italian)

For 99 cents and “with just one click,” you can enter the world of the National Rifle Association. Just go on the website and download “NRA: Practice Range.” In recent weeks, the gun lobby has fought back because of Barack Obama’s failure in his search for a gun control agreement with the Republican Party.

For 99 cents you can “practice with a gun,” “read up on critical safety and training tips” and be up to date on the latest news regarding guns and related laws. “With just one click,” you can enter the world of the National Rifle Association. Just go on the iTunes website and download “NRA: Practice Range,” the official app of the extremely powerful lobby, which has been fighting back in recent weeks because Barack Obama has failed in his search for a gun control agreement with the Republican Party. You might say this is an application prohibited to minors. Actually, no — the great supermarket of apps designed by Apple considers it suitable for children at least four years old. This was a sudden change of direction apparently on the part of the NRA, which, at the end of December, accused the video game industry of instigating violence and which now seems to have embraced the marketing techniques of brands such as McDonald’s and Cartoon Network — offering children online games to gain their loyalty from the earliest years of life.

After a few clicks, the game is done. Nothing is easier, in that parallel universe, which reached 40 billion downloads, Cupertino announced a few days ago. It is a world within reach of all, and, since Sunday, has been enriched by a new possibility. “NRA: Practice Range,” reads the iTunes website, “puts the National Rifle Association’s broad scope of resources in the palm of your hand — with Second Amendment newsfeeds, gun law information centers and educational materials.” The mantra, the right guaranteed by the Constitution, is still the same: “Know your rights from state to state.” The app offers “a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations.” It is categorized as a “4+” game. “Applications in this category,” reads the Apple classification system, “contain no objectionable material” and are adapted to children who have reached four years of age (the other categories range from nine to 17 years as the contents gradually become stronger and contain violence, alcohol, drugs, nudity and sex).

In the language of enthusiasts, it is called a “shooter.” Developed by Californian MEDL Mobile, the application is available for every iPhone from 3Gs to the most recent 5, as well as for the iPod Touch and iPad. They are deployed very quickly and allow a new generation to come into contact at an increasingly tender age. The youngest seem to be the NRA’s target. The lobby has chosen to conduct the battle through the latest generation’s devices, which are used daily by millions of citizens and guarantee a widespread penetration of the message. They consent to presenting strong arguments in defense of gun rights in the most devious fashion: in the form of a game. Yet until a few days ago, the mantra against the video game industry proceeded uninterrupted.

It began on Dec. 21. In a press conference, Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, hurled abuse against “the culture of violence” that permeates American society, fueled by behavioral models spread by television, movies and video games. “A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18,” announced LaPierre. “And, throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.” He has also added, “Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.” In the head of the NRA’s view, this is because of video games in which one kills enemies, if only virtually, in games such as “Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse... And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn't?”

His move was in response to the attacks by newspapers. Now that the wave of hot-blooded public reprobation following the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children has been reduced to a simple high tide, the lobby moves on to the counterattack with a mobile phone app. The technique is proven: Offer online games that kindle children’s loyalty beginning in their first years of life. Major fast food companies like McDonald’s and Subway have been doing it for years. So have producers of breakfast cereals like TrixWorld.com and ReesesPuffs.com, as well as children’s entertainment giants such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Now, the most powerful gun lobby of the United States of America is doing it, too.



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