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By Michelle Lampariello
Apple recently announced its decision to replace the pistol emoji with a green squirt gun as a symbolic stance in America’s ongoing debate regarding gun control. However, this change reflects more on Apple’s stance on the First Amendment than the Second Amendment.
Supporters of the change argue that the pistol emoji promotes violence in everyday language, and that by keeping the pistol emoji in use, Apple would be feeding into the rise of gun violence. It is true that too many shootings occur in modern society and stricter gun laws are a critical component in solving the issue. However, Apple’s squirt gun emoji will not change actual gun laws — changing an image in a text message is certainly far less powerful than restricting a real-life weapon.
Critics of the switch see the change as ridiculous and even comical. A brightly colored squirt gun is the pistol’s replacement? This might result in the switch back ring, as people might see Apple’s decision as gun control taken too far or an example of major companies trying to brainwash youth. While Apple is trying to support gun control laws with this change, the company has the potential to hinder the movement by providing gun control critics with an example of where the gun control movement has overstepped its bounds.
Taking the pistol emoji out of an iPhone user’s vocabulary will not change their behavior. Whether they will simply type out the word, use the squirt gun instead or switch to using the knife emoji, those who wish to be threatening will always find a way.
As for those who use the pistol emoji to joke with their friends, this change will not affect them, either. The idea that replacing the pistol will help keep violence away from everyday language is rather naïve. Everyone has access to violent movies, TV shows, games, music, books and other forms of media that do not censor guns or any type of violence. Guns and other weapons are unfortunately already a part of Americans’ daily lives, with or without a pistol emoji.
Apple sometimes adds new emojis in software updates to allow users to be more expressive. Some changes were long overdue, such as the addition of an array of skin colors rather than strictly white characters. Some changes were solely for entertainment, such as the addition of a unicorn. Nonetheless, all additions to the emoji list were added in an effort to expand the options of an Apple customer.
Apple now seeks to restrict these options instead of increasing the freedom of its users. The elimination of the pistol is a symbolic disarming of Apple customers, but it is impossible to disarm people when their weapons are words. Emoji characters are language, not actions. Therefore, the replacement of the pistol is an infringement on Apple customers’ freedom of speech.
It is the job of lawmakers to impact gun control in America, not software. Replacing the pistol emoji with a squirt gun is taking a step backwards rather than a step forward. Symbolic changes like these only prolong the journey to safer gun laws. It is time that we focus on actual change rather than what emoji we choose when sending a text.