After blaming video games for exposing children to violence, the National Rifle Association has created a shooting game for kids as young as 12 years old.
The release of NRA: Practice Range, which is available as an iPhone and iPad app, comes one month after 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Reaction to the NRA's game has been mixed, with some calling it a "hypocritical move" and noting the "poor" timing and decision to make it available for pre-schoolers. (After its release, the game's age recommendation was changed from four years old to 12, with an added warning that the game contains realistic violence.) Others, however, describe it as a firing range simulator that is "one of the least violent" games available on Apple's iTunes store.
The powerful gun rights lobby group says the free app promotes firearms safety.
"NRA: Practice Range also offers a 3D shooting game that 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," says the app's description.
The game's features include nine guns, three "immersive shooting ranges," three difficulty levels and analog and gyroscope controls. Users shoot at targets, including what some have deemed "coffin-shaped" with red bulls' eyes at head and heart levels. Players can also pay 99 cents to upgrade to weapons such as AK47 assault rifles.
"Is this some kind of sick joke? The NRA complains about violent games and then releases one … Sure you're not shooting at humans but does it really matter?" one reviewer wrote.
The app, which is licensed by the NRA, also includes "2nd Amendment newsfeeds" as well as materials so users will "know your rights from state to state."
In a news conference one week after the Dec. 14 Newtown tragedy, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre called for armed guards to be posted at every school and singled out "vicious, violent video games" for exposing children to violence.
Vice-President Joe Biden, who led a task force on gun violence, is expected to present recommendations to President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Mr. Obama could reveal next steps as early as Wednesday.
With a report from The Canadian Press