You have to hand it to the NRA. They do not shrink from controversy. The gun association was not even modestly cowed by recent gun-related atrocities. The more guns (of all sorts, apparently) the better for public safety and the preservation of the Constitution seems to be their mantra. And their righteousness apparently precludes any common PR concerns.
To wit, in the midst of controversy around the organization’s stance in the gun control debate and concern that it represents gun manufacturers' interests above all others, the NRA has released its own mobile target shooting game.
In another context, “NRA Target Practice” would be unremarkable. While finger-pointers may be quick to cite the hypocrisy of issuing a shooter-based digital game just as the NRA itself engages in scapegoating violent video games and entertainment as a cause of gun violence, there is nothing about this game that approaches the typical bloody shooter. It is a straightforward target-practice sim. Three different settings and degrees of difficulty move you through basic target arrays. Okay, you can arm yourself with an AK47, or try to. Leveraging the in-app purchase model, the otherwise free game upgrades your arsenal for 99 cents a gun. I never got to see whether the AK47 had an enormous clip to it, however, because the app hung at the upgrade screen repeatedly. Ugh. Gun jam!
So the joke is that it may actually be easier to buy an assault weapon at a local gun show than it is to buy one in the NRA's own app.
The NRA advises that I stop using the weapon if it shows any abnormality, so I put the app down to let it cool off. The NRA uses interstitial messaging during game load screens to remind you of all the children and police officers it has helped train in safe gun handling. It also ratchets through about 10 gun safety tips that are so obvious and simple (wear ear protection, don’t put your finger on the trigger until ready to shoot) that one is left wondering how deep “gun safety” goes.
The app does not integrate too much of the NRA’s more propagandistic content so much as link to it in mobile Web callouts to the blog and regulation news. As a propaganda device, the app missed the mark. This might have been a good time for the organization to app-ify its instructional and gun safety programs. But the app carries the subtext of strident assuredness, shared by the organization behind it.