Apple jumps the shark by removing the handgun emoji

Apple’s far-left politics are well known, but the company has jumped the shark by replacing the handgun emoji with a squirt gun. Gun owners might want to reconsider buying Apple's products.

Apple released another beta of iOS 10 yesterday, and among the changes in that release was the introduction of a squirt gun emoji that replaced the hand gun emoji that had previously been available. I'm running beta four of iOS 10 so I verified the change yesterday after doing my upgrade, the handgun emoji is no longer available.

Before I get any further into this post, you should know that I’m a life member of the NRA, so my perspective on guns certainly does not match Apple’s. I’ve been a life member for a long time now, and I always recommend that folks join the NRA to help protect 2nd amendment rights.

With that disclosure out of the way, let me take this bit by bit, and I’ll start with Apple’s official statement about the changes in iOS 10:

More than one hundred new and redesigned emoji characters will be available to iPhone and iPad users this fall with iOS 10. This exciting update brings more gender options to existing characters, including new female athletes and professionals, adds beautiful redesigns of popular emoji, a new rainbow flag and more family options.

Apple is working closely with the Unicode Consortium to ensure that popular emoji characters reflect the diversity of people everywhere.

More at Apple

Take very careful note of the sentence that mentions “popular emoji characters reflect the diversity of people everywhere.” Apple is using what it considers to be the language of inclusion, while at the same time excluding people like me who own handguns and who use them safely and legally.

So much for real diversity and inclusion on Apple’s part. Apparently diversity doesn’t include lawful gun owners in America and other parts of the world. So the emoji that we were previously able to access is no longer available.

This is another odious example of Apple forcing its far-left California politics on its customer base. If the company really cared about diversity then it would understand that not everyone shares its hatred of guns. Many people in these United States own and use guns lawfully, and might take offense at Apple's heavy-handed emoji censorship.

apple handgun emoji Popular Science

How did the handgun emoji removal from iOS 10 come about?

You might be wondering how Apple got the idea to remove the handgun emoji in the first place. I bumped into a post by Dave Mark on The Loop blog that said that it was from a bug report submitted by someone.

Here’s the text of that bug report:




The current “pistol” emoji is a realistically rendered lethal weapon. As the spec doesn’t require it to be this way, Apple would be doing a service to society by changing this image to a plastic toy gun, such as a bright pink or green water squirter.

Steps to Reproduce:

Type the “pistol” emoji.

Expected Results:

Emoji should not be a reminder of the weapon causing tens of thousands of deaths in the US every year.

Actual Results:

Emoji is a reminder of a weapon causing tens of thousands of deaths in the US every year.


iOS 9


If it’s true that Apple has pushed for the emoji set to exclude the proposed “rifle” image, I hope they will consider this bug and see it as part of the same issue.

More at Open Radar

I do not know if Dave Mark is right about this being the root of the handgun emoji removal or not, but it looks pretty darn accurate to me.

Apple's handgun emoji censorship breaks the Unicode standard

The post on the Loop drew a few negative comments, one of which pointed out that users on non-Apple platforms will still see the original handgun emoji. So Apple is now out of sync with other platforms, and changing the icon for the handgun emoji also changes all previous messages sent on Apple's platform that have included it.

Here's a sample of the comments from that Loop post:

Freediverx: “Apple doesn’t control the emoji standards so users of other devices will still see a realistic gun emoji. This can only lead to terrible miscommunications when used by folks across different platforms. Terrible idea regardless of where you stand on the gun rights issue.

And as with Apple’s heavy-handed approach towards sexual themes in the App Store, it comes across as a tad hypocritical considering the ample selection of violent movies available in iTunes.”

JimothyGator: “F’n lame. Some stupid symbolic gesture that won’t change a thing, but gives people like Dave Mark and John Gruber their feel good social virtue points as they let us all know they are correct thinking.”

JohnK: “What a bunch of spineless cowards. Maybe a pistol reminds some of deaths, or maybe the pistol emoji is a reminder to some of the thousands who gave their lives defending this country. But I can tell you that an emoji of a inanimate object is not the cause of any deaths and is nothing to get worked up about. This PC nonsense is out of control and Apple/Google feeds right into it.”

More at The Loop

The Loop blog wasn't the only place where Apple users expressed their displeasure with the censorship of the handgun emoji. It also came up in a thread on Reddit, and some of the folks there also noted that Apple was breaking with Unicode standards by replacing the handgun icon with a squirt gun:

Mredofcourse: “Some people here aren’t getting the problem with this. Set aside the political correctness for a second regardless of how you feel about it, and here’s the problem:

When you send an emoji, you aren’t sending the graphic image. You’re sending a Unicode. The recipient on the other end receives that code and then shows the corresponding image based on their platform.

So, suppose a kid at school who was planning on having a watergun fight sends a text to another kid/teacher saying “I’m going to get you” followed by the watergun emoji. If the recipient has a different platform, they’re likely to see a handgun.

People have been arrested for sending emojis[1] .

If Apple wants to prevent people from sending “violent” emojis, again political correctness aside, they should simply remove those emojis from the keyboard.

As the OP points out, Apple shouldn’t mess with what the Unicode characters represent because it will have all kinds of consequences regarding miscommunication across different platforms.”

Marino4K: “I don’t think they should even remove the handgun emoji, like it’s a little overkill (no pun) on trying to be “sensitive” to the issues. So, what we’re gonna delete car emojis next because someone hit a bunch of people with a car, oh wait he was drinking, let’s remove the beer emoji next.”

PiwwowPants: “The misinterpretation across platforms makes this an issue, not the fact that they changed it.

The real real issue is that down the line, they’re going to use this to force everyone else to change it. First Facebook then Google and then they’ll just change the standard. It isn’t a political issue but power abuse since they’re on the board. Changing any emoji from its meaning like this isn’t right since it can trickle down to affect the Unicode standard.”

Asprintf: “Kudos for making the first rational and unemotional point I’ve seen against this change. I tend to agree that this could lead to some relatively serious unintended consequences.

We should also keep in mind this is a beta and Apple may change their mind before iOS 10 is released. I recommend people use the Feedback app if they feel strongly about this. Just make sure you’re making a reasoned point and not going on some reactionary, eye-rolling political rant.”

Pizzapizza1212: “Apple should change the emoji back to a pistol. How could emojis be dangerous?”

Pinchitony: “Because if you see an abstract drawing of a gun you might become a criminal and want to shot everyone.

There are thousands of cases reported like this.”

Illford: “This isn’t about gun rights, I don’t care bout that. You may see emoji as some silly thing, but it’s a standardized cross language method of communication set down by Unicode. Apple is intentionally going against even their own pre-existing representation of that particular emoji and turning it into something completely different out of some political agenda.

That’s not the job of the keyboard, it’s not apple’s platform for morality, it’s designed to assist communication and Apple just created an emoji that all android users, and every iOS user 9.0 and under will see as a weapon instead of a toy.”

AlexOverby: “Companies shouldn’t even be allowed to change their emojis to anything that doesn’t CLEARLY represent what Unicode says it does. Unicode says that emoji is a gun, not a watergun. Companies should be allowed to have their own aesthetic for their emojis, just not changing what they represent.”

More at Reddit

Does Apple know that guns often save lives?

And it’s also clear to me that the person who submitted the bug report acted out of his or her own political ideology. But what the person who submitted the bug report didn’t say was that guns save many more lives than they take every year in America.

See these articles for reference points on how guns save lives in these United States:

In One Year, Gun Owners Stopped Hundreds Of Criminals, Saved Countless Lives

Fact Sheet: Guns Save Lives

White House Study Finds Guns Save Lives: “Consistently Lower Injury Rates Among Gun Using Crime Victims”

Armed Citizen (stories of lawful gun owners who have used guns in self-defense)

Video: Guns save lives

So if it is true that Apple acted on that bug report, then it shows that the company apparently did not bother to do any research to justify its decision to remove the handgun emoji. Why not? It goes back to the culture inside of Apple and the politics that come from that culture.

Apple should have paused and tried to get more information before making a decision to remove the handgun emoji. But I don't think Apple cares at all about facts or opinions that contradict its left-wing politics. And so the handgun emoji was sacrificed at the altar of political correctness.

Apple also blocked the adoption of a rifle emoji

Removing the handgun emoji is not the first act of political aggression by Apple toward gun owners and the gun culture of America. The company previously acted in concert with Microsoft to block the implementation of a rifle emoji:

…Apple objected to the idea of introducing a second gun emoji on its platforms, and Microsoft joined in. The decision to remove the rifle emoji, as well as a second “pentathlon” emoji depicting a man holding a pistol among other athletes, was apparently unanimous.

“Nobody in the room seemed to mind not encoding the rifle,” said a Unicode Consortium member present during the discussion.

The two characters will still be part of the Unicode spec, but they’ll be classed as black-and-white “symbols” instead of regular emoji. Companies that want to add them to their emoji keyboards still can (Google already integrated both into the Android N betas), but they may or may not be supported on other platforms. Both characters were originally included because they were parts of Olympic sports, according to Unicode President Mark Davis.

More at Ars Technica

So the removal of the handgun emoji really shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone familiar with Apple’s previous behavior. It was a foregone conclusion that the company would push its anti-gun mindset on its customers when the time came to make emoji changes in iOS 10.

Get ready for more emoji censorship by Apple

Of course I should note here that there are some other emojis currently available that Apple will no doubt put on their hit list. There's one of a bomb with a lit fuse, a lit cigarette, a dagger, a hammer, a needle with blood squirting out of it, and one of a knife. My guess is that those will be the next ones removed as Apple continues its politically correct purge of "offensive" or "dangerous" emojis.

Here's a screenshot of some of the "violent" emojis still in iOS 10 as I write this post:

dangerous emojis apple ios 10

I wonder how long it will be until Apple removes the toilet emoji on the grounds that someone, somewhere might find it offensive? I bet you think I'm kidding with that comment but I'm not. And take note of the pill emoji, that one will be on the list eventually as the emoji nannies and social justice warriors running Apple will eventually come to the conclusion that it encourages drug abuse.

Should gun owners continue to buy Apple products?

The issue of emojis might seem to be a petty nuisance at best to some people, but for me (and plenty of others I’m sure) it really underscores that it might not be a good idea to continue to buy Apple’s products.

It’s one thing for the folks running Apple to have their own politics, I have no problem with that at all. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion about guns or any other issue, and more power to them.

But when a corporation’s power and software is used to slowly edge out free expression within its products then I think it’s time to step back and think carefully about supporting that company. Remember that getting rid of the handgun emoji was the second step after blocking the implementation of the rifle emoji, there will be more of this kind of ideological censorship coming from Apple in the future.

For me this means a freeze on buying any new Apple products for the foreseeable future. It's a shame too as I had been looking forward to the new iPhone and Apple Watch, but I can't justify spending the money to support Apple given its heavy-handed censorship of the handgun emoji in iOS 10.

It saddens me to write this but I think the time might have arrived for me to begin transitioning away from Apple’s products for my personal use. I’ll keep a few around for professional purposes like this blog but, slowly over time, it might be time to say goodbye to Apple for my personal computing needs.

If you think it will do any good, you can email Tim Cook about the issue, but I don't think I will bother. Instead I've already started thinking about what my next steps will be when it comes time to replace my 5K iMac, iPhone 6s Plus and Apple Watch. It will be sad if I have to part with my Apple devices, but sometimes you have to draw a line when a company stops focusing on technology and instead starts pushing a political agenda.

I suppose it's possible that Apple might change its mind, stranger things have certainly happened in the world of technology. Microsoft has already backpedaled on the emoji issue in the Windows 10 anniversary update by replacing the sci-fi gun it had used before with an actual pistol. But knowing Apple, I doubt very much that that will happen.

All of this sure makes me miss Steve Jobs. Say what you will about him, he never let Apple fall into the partisan political abyss that it is in right now. He wisely and shrewdly made sure that Apple remained focused on technology, not on pushing a political agenda, and he was very right to do so.

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

Download CIO's Winter 2021 digital issue: Supercharging IT innovation