In trying to wrap my brain around the criticism the NRA attributes to violent video games causing gun violence, comes this bit of news.

According to this:

…the gun-rights organization has released a new shooter game for kids as young as four.

NRA: Practice Range, a new app in the iTunes store, was released Sunday by the nation’s largest gun-industry lobby. It features a 3D-shooting range and offers users simulated target practice.

The game's launch comes one month after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which touched off a national debate over how to limit gun violence.

“Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media and Obama’s budget kill people,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a Dec. 21 press conference where he addressed the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

"There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like ‘Bulletstorm,’ ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Splatterhouse.’”

The free app, recommended for ages 4 and up, according to the iTunes rating system, “offers a 3D shooting game that instills safe and responsible ownership through fun challenges and realistic simulations,” says the app’s description. “It strikes the right balance of gaming and safety education, allowing you to enjoy the most authentic experience possible.”

Users don’t shoot live subjects in the app, but instead are given an M9 handgun and sent to target practice in three immersive shooting ranges.

The NRA says the app “puts the organization’s broad scope of resources in the palm of your hand – with 2nd Amendment newsfeeds, gun law information centers and educational materials that you can access anywhere, anytime.”

The app has received three-and-a-half out of five stars in the iTunes store, but has attracted several scathing customer reviews, some calling for it to be pulled from the iTunes store.

For 99 cents, users can upgrade their firearm from a free M9 to a Beretta, a Browning or a Colt in the app, which offers indoor, outdoor and skeet shooting modes.

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” asked one user known as Papershipsonfire. “The NRA complains about violent games and then releases one a week later. Sure you’re not shooting humans but does it really matter?”

“What a dumb move,” posted Mansonr6. “Good luck getting anyone to take your video game theory serious after this.”

But others praised the educational content offered in the game.

“This is fun and informative plus there is no need for eye and ear protection,” wrote Joe in BrynMawr. “A must have for any gun enthusiast and defender of the U.S. constitution.”

I guess the key question is “would you consider this a violent video game?”

It does involve gun play…but at whom are you shooting? They say there's no live target. True, no live target, nor for that matter a virtual human, which I think would desensitize anyone playing the game to gun violence.

And while I'm no advocate of the NRA, I see the point that the game is really all about target practice.

However, I question the timing of the release of the game…especially one month after the massacre at Newtown.

If you were to say that violent video games contribute to the culture of desensitation that exists…I think few would argue with that.

However, does this particular video game contribute to that same desensitation? And, more importantly, is it inherently violent?