Courtesy of ‘NRA
A newly released iPhone game that allows a player to shoot a virtual gun at various targets isn’t anything new.
However, the fact that it was released by the National Rifle Association and not a video game company might raise some eyebrows.
Some students and faculty on Ohio State’s campus said they think the application’s release came too soon after the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
“I think the timing is bad. Maybe it’s consistent with NRA’s position that the only way to stop bad people is to give good people guns, but there’s no data to support that,” said Brad Bushman, OSU professor of communication and psychology. Bushman has conducted research on the relationship between video games and shooting accuracy and the relationship between violent media and violent behavior.
Meghan Vermillion, a second-year in psychology, likewise said she thought the timing felt wrong.
“It almost feels like it’s too soon – too much, too soon. I don’t think a game like that should be a problem, but I do think it will raise questions,” Vermillion said.
Eyes have been on the NRA since a company representative gave a statement in a Dec. 21 press conference calling for armed police officers in schools nationwide as a preventative measure against school shootings, such as the one that occurred days before in Newtown.
On Dec. 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother in the head multiple times before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he killed 20 children and six adults before he shot himself, according to multiple reports. The children were all ages 6 and 7 and all victims were reportedly shot multiple times.
The NRA released the application for iOS users on Jan. 14, according to a report from CNN. The app is called “NRA: Practice Range” and allows the user to shoot animated versions of different gun models at targets while providing facts about the NRA and safety tips about guns to players.
The app was originally released for ages 4 and up, but on Jan. 15, the rating was changed to ages 12 and older, according to a CNN report. The 12 and older rating is for “frequent (and) intense realistic violence,” according to Apple’s App Store. The app store description says the game “instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations. It strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education, allowing you to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.”
Bushman said the NRA game will make an impact on its players.
“It should increase shooting accuracy, but not as much as if the targets in the game were humans,” he said. “People who play a violent shooting game are more accurate and more likely to shoot for the head. Bull’s-eye games also increase accuracy but not as much.”
Based on his research, exposure to violent video games and other media leads to more aggressive and violent behavior in people, but Bushman clarified that, that doesn’t mean violent media shape people into killers.
Some OSU students said it’s been long enough since the shooting to release a game like this, and that some positive effects would probably result.
“That (improved accuracy) could be good then, in case anyone is ever in a situation where they had to use a weapon, then they could probably defend themselves better if they knew what they were doing,” said Josh McCaffrey, a second-year in industrial engineering.
Either way, Bushman said the events of the Newtown shooting call for a reform of violence in the media.
“It’s a wake-up call. These tragedies, if we can do anything to reduce them, we should do it,” he said. “Parents are the key and the problem is that most parents use the media to babysit their children. Many parents let their children play age-inappropriate video games.”
Vermillion said her personal view on gun control has recently changed.
“I think the issues are bigger than just the games, or the apps, that we have,” Vermillion said. “I live in the suburbs at home and my family just purchased a gun, so my views have kind of changed. And I think it’s a lot less to do with the gun control laws and a lot more to do with how we purchase them.”
McCaffrey had similar ideas about what could be done to decrease mass shootings.
“I’m more for enforcing the laws that are already enacted because a lot of them would be more efficient, they’re just not enforced very well,” he said.
In a Sept. 10 interview with The Lantern, President E. Gordon Gee expressed his opposition to allowing the concealed carry of guns on OSU’s campus.
“I am totally, unequivocally opposed (to guns on campus),” Gee said. “I want to be very clear about that. I think that is a horrible idea on a university campus for people to be carrying guns. Period.”
Ohio Students for Concealed Carry, a group that advocates for increased gun rights on campus, told The Lantern in late November that it intends to file a lawsuit against OSU for its gun policy.
Michael Newbern, a third-year in engineering and director of Ohio Students for Concealed Carry, said he doesn’t think the app’s release was related to the Newtown shooting.
“I don’t know that the app was released after Newtown specifically because of Newtown. You have to remember that apps like this can take months to develop especially with a huge organization like the NRA,” Newbern said. “I haven’t seen a statement from them saying that it was related so I can’t say they are.”
He also said he thinks this method of delivering facts to the public will be effective.
“When you click the safety messages in the context of some fun environment, people usually pick up on it better. It’s a learning technique that’s very popular right now with a lot of children,” he said.
The NRA did not respond to an email requesting comment. The organization also did not respond to requests for comment about the app from CNN, Politico or ABC News.