In what seems like a complete absurdity, and just in time to commemorate the one month anniversary of the horrific tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association has just released earlier this week a free iPhone and iPad video game that simulates shooting guns at a firing range that was originally rated for children as young as four years old. “NRA: Practice Range,” which is available at the iTunes online store, requires players to shoot either bull’s-eyes or coffin-shaped targets using various firearms such as AK-47s, pump-action shotguns, or a M9 handgun. For ninety-nine cents, players can upgrade their firearms to weapons of mass murder such as an MK11 sniper rifle. Because of public outcry and an online petition drive, Apple changed the rating for the game to twelve and older just two days after the initial release.
Violent video games were first developed by the U.S. Army to train its soldiers for combat and as a recruiting tool. On July 4, 2002, the Army came out with its “America’s Army” recruiting online game that became the number one online video game in the country. “America’s Army” was created as a worldwide public relations program to help in its recruitment of potential soldiers and has revolved into a series of government training and simulation applications developed to train and educate its soldiers for warfare. Potential recruits can undergo virtual training in and around barracks and shooting ranges as well as participating in team battles against opposing players in online combat. The video games have been so effective that law enforcement agencies have begun using them. The most popular games are made and sold by Nintendo.
In 2008, the Army created a video game development unit with a $50 million, five-year budget to develop future games. Marsha Berry, the executive producer of “America’s Army 3,” has been quoted saying “We wanted the kids to be able to start playing at 13,” regarding the game’s relatively sanitary version when compared to other more violent games, in order to receive a “T For Teen” rating. Retired Army Lt. Colonel David Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor, has written several books on the subject and calls these games a “murder simulator.”
One week after the horrendous tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre told the press that “There exists in this country, sadly a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like “Bullet Storm,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Mortal Combat” and “Splatterhouse.” In what might be the most ironic statement ever made, Mr. LaPierre has recently said “Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media and Obama’s budget kills people.” If Mr. LaPierre actually believes his comments, why on Earth would his organization promote and give away such a game, especially to very young children?
Steven H. Spring