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NRA ‘Target Practice’ Game Not NRA’s (Or, Maybe it Is)

So, everyone in my Twitter feed and the cast of “Morning Joe” were up in arms about an iPhone game for kids being sold by the NRA in the wake of Sandy Hook. It turns out, the NRA behind the game is not the National Rifle Association.

Bill Keller:

Sunday, 30 days after the slaughter of first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, the NRA launched a target-practice app for shooters aged 4 and up. The free app, called NRA: Practice Range, offers online gunslingers a chance to test their preschool skills on an M9 at a skeet-shooting range or indoors at a row of targets that look eerily like coffins. For 99 cents, little Timmy and Tiffany can upgrade to a Beretta, a Browning or a Colt.

The critics have not been kind. For one thing, the app is apparently too lame even for a 4-year-old. Justin Davis, who reviews gaming apps for IGN Wireless was unimpressed: “The default accelerometer controls are barely functional. Graphical and sound elements seem unfinished. In the outdoor shooting range the tree textures appear to just be flat 2D photographs of trees displayed in various sizes. When reloading, your weapon simply disappears from the screen for a few seconds, absent of any sound or animation. If you’re a gun enthusiast and a gamer looking for a solid shooting range time-killer on-the-go, NRA: Practice Range is not the game you’ve been waiting for.”

Most commenters were simply astounded at the insensitivity of the timing—and the hypocrisy, given the NRA’s insistence that the real menace to is not guns but “the marketing of violence to our kids” in the form of videogames. For once, the NRA wasn’t commenting.

Unless…Wait a second. Wait a second! What if they’re kidding! Pulling our legs! Maybe this app is a hoax, just the NRA’s way of driving home that message about the threat of videogames.

Well, actually, Bill Keller finds, not so much.

I’ve been in touch with Reggie Pierce, the CEO of a company called IP Lasso, which chases down counterfeit web content on behalf of brand-name clients. The National Rifle Association is not a client, but the folks at IP Lasso saw the news splash and decided something felt “a little fishy,” Pierce said. And so they ran some diagnostics. For one thing, nothing in the iTunes listing of the Target Practice app named the National Rifle Association. It just uses the initials – NRA – which Pierce said is a common way counterfeiters get around trademarks. Other NRA-related apps use the full name of the organization. They also feature a logo slightly different from the one on Target Practice. These and other indicators convinced Pierce that NRA: Target Practice is either a hoax aimed at embarrassing the NRA (not that the NRA needs much help) or, more likely, a publicity stunt by the developer of the app (which, to avoid rewarding the company, I will not name here.)

So, a stupid hoax perpetrated at the NRA’s expense?

UPDATE: Keller yet again:

I’ve now reached the developer, a company called MEDL Mobile, where co-founder Andrew Maltin insists the work was in fact commissioned by the National Rifle Association.

“It is in fact an official licensed product of the NRA,” he said.

Meaning the National Rifle Association? I asked. Because the iTunes listing does not give the full name, just the initials, and other NRA apps spell it out.

“Yes, the National Rifle Association.”

And why is its format different from other NRA-licensed apps?

“That’s just the text they approved and they wanted on it.”
Beyond that, he declined to discuss the app.

The NRA has not yet returned my call, but an alert reader points out that the age category for the app has been changed. It is now 12+. Sorry, little gunslingers, not for preschoolers any more. Maybe – assuming the app is actually theirs – the NRA is capable of embarrassment after all.

As Matt Drudge would say, “Developing . . . .”

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Depending on the scope of the NRA’s trademarks on its name, this may be something they can take action against.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  2. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Well, yeah. But first of all, they have to find these bozos.

    I’m also somewhat surprised–I thought Apple kept an eagle eye on app developers. Or maybe they’re just worried about viruses?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  3. DanStlMo says:

    (not that the NRA needs much help) WTF?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  4. @grumpy realist:

    Well, at the very least, they may have grounds for a DMCA Takedown Notice. Which I’m fairly certain Apple would comply with quickly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Roger Wildin says:

    Why would mentioning the developer of the app be “Rewarding” ? If the timing and the insensitivity of the release is bad and the game itself is horrible, wouldn’t releasing the name of the developer be negative in nature and bad publicity for the developer ? Or is the developer simply someone that you wish not to embarress ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Astro says:

    There’s been a follow up
    http://keller.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/15/nra-the-plot-thickens/

    Bill Keller”
    I’ve now reached the developer, a company called MEDL Mobile, where co-founder Andrew Maltin insists the work was in fact commissioned by the National Rifle Association.

    “It is in fact an official licensed product of the NRA,” he said.

    Meaning the National Rifle Association? I asked. Because the iTunes listing does not give the full name, just the initials, and other NRA apps spell it out.

    “Yes, the National Rifle Association.”

    And why is its format different from other NRA-licensed apps?

    “That’s just the text they approved and they wanted on it.”
    Beyond that, he declined to discuss the app.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. john personna says:

    This game looks very mild to me. Pistol targets are often head-and-shoulders stylized or personalized.

    That the head-and-shoulders look “coffin-like” to me means that they aren’t really grasping the head and shoulders with red spots for brain and heart.

    I also doubt that anyone thought about the release timing, it was probably a software project with a lot of lead time. Perhaps they were already 3 months late, and desperate to ship (and get paid).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. mantis says:

    Stay classy, NRA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  9. rudderpedals says:

    I think the image is a stub, or there’s a large untapped market for shooting lightly stylized 2001 lifepods. Maybe the deliverable has a standardized target, and for a couple of bucks a pop you can download other more interesting targets?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. de stijl says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Maybe the deliverable has a standardized target, and for a couple of bucks a pop you can download other more interesting targets?

    Will “Kenyan Usurper” be one of the targets available?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. rudderpedals says:

    @de stijl: Absolutely!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. john personna says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Assasin’s Creed is far more disturbing, and has been on the market for years and years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. rudderpedals says:

    @john personna: Falling on people was a lot of fun but I set Assassin’s Creed aside after an hour. Everyone hates to abandon games and books. I couldn’t make it to the real good stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0