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NRA faces backlash over shooting app

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Want a snapshot of the nation’s debate over gun control? Look no further than the comments section on Apple’s App Store.

Commenters have turned the forums for an NRA-branded shooting app into a political soapbox. The new app, called NRA: Practice Range, first appeared in the App Store on Jan. 13, a day before the one-month anniversary of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The timing gave plenty of NRA critics pause. So did the fact that the NRA, whose vice president decried video game violence in a press conference last month, decided to publish a shooting game of its own.

“Disgusting,” reads one single-word, single-star evaluation.

“Ignore the liberal reviews,” another commenter wrote, giving the app five stars.

Others have stuck to or added critiques of the game itself: “Crashes constantly...” one review begins. “NRA is Awesome!” reads another. “However, the app is not so great.”

The game was rated for ages 4 and up, but on Tuesday afternoon the rating had changed to ages 12 and up, citing “Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the app had 479 reviews and averaged a rating of 3.5 stars.

The game is produced by MEDL Mobile and marketed as a licensed app from the NRA. It’s a fairly simple game: Players can pick inside or outside shooting ranges and the weapons of their choice. (There are in-app purchases for additional guns, such as a semiautomatic sniper rifle.) As the game loads, the screen shows gun safety tips and facts about the NRA. However, the game app is not featured or promoted alongside the NRA’s official news application or anywhere on the organization’s Web page.

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment on the app. The National Rifle Association and MEDL Mobile did not respond to requests for clarification on what role the organization played in the app’s development and release.

As The Washington Post reported, spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the White House has no comment on the app.

NRA officials and representatives from the video-game industry participated in talks with Vice President Biden on gun control last week, along with law enforcement and film industry reps and others. The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama will release his gun-control proposals on Wednesday.

Related stories: No White House comment on NRA game Put armed police in every school, NRA urges Why the video game industry has to talk about gun violence Sign up today to receive #thecircuit, a daily roundup of the latest tech policy news from Washington and how it is shaping business, entertainment and science.

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