About that NRA shooting app

January 16, 2013: 3:35 PM ET

"NRA: Target Practice" went on sale a month after the Sandy Hook massacre.

nra-gun-app2FORTUNE -- The NRA going after President Obama because his children are protected by armed guards (the Secret Service) is just what White House spokesman Jay Carney says it is: "repugnant and cowardly." It's also nothing new. Critics of presidents have always looked under rocks to find hypocrisy—as when President Clinton was lambasted for sending his daughter Chelsea to private school while promoting public schools (Obama gets that, too), and when both Obama and President George W. Bush were criticized for taking vacations. It's silly, but it's standard-issue political hackery.

For a better indication of the challenges involved in changing the national attitude toward guns, look no further than "NRA: Target Practice," a mobile game that went on sale Sunday (exactly a month after the Sandy Hook shootings) in the iTunes (AAPL) store and is apparently sponsored by the NRA. It's a shooting game that was originally intended for children four years old and up (after outrage was expressed, the age was changed to 12 and up).

Made by MEDL Mobile (MEDL), the game was the No. 2 free app in the iTunes app store on Wednesday. Users have rated it 3 1/3 stars out of 5. Leaving aside the tastelessness aspect, it's a terrible game -- badly designed and executed, with clunky, simplistic graphics and an unusually clumsy interface (at least one actual game reviewer agrees).

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Is it possible that the game was hastily slapped together just in the past few weeks, after the Sandy Hook massacre, to "capitalize" on the tragedy and the ensuing gun debate? Neither the NRA nor MEDL Mobile is talking (the NRA hasn't even acknowledged that it sponsored the game, though a MEDL executive told the New York Times that it did. He didn't say much else, however, and the company didn't return Fortune's calls Wednesday morning.)

According to the app's promotional spiel, the game "instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations" that make for "the most authentic experience possible." The only way it instills safety and responsibility is to offer a tip before play starts, such as "Always leave the gun unloaded until ready to use." Upon clicking into the game, tykes are directed to "start shooting." Players in one level may choose to use the free M16 or pay 99 cents to upgrade to an AK-47 or other assault rifle. The only saving grace: the targets aren't human.

A week after the Sandy Hook shootings, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, in an attempt to find anything other than the easy availability of guns to blame, cited "vicious, violent video games" as one culprit, along with music and movies.

Shares in MEDL, which trade over the counter, were at 17 cents on Wednesday, up a penny, or 6.25%.  The stock peaked at $1.65 in August 2011 just after the company went public, and has moved steadily downward ever since.

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