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Apple Ditches Pistol Emoji In Favor Of Water Gun

On its latest operating system, iOS 10, Apple has replaced its pistol emoji with this icon of a green water gun.
On its latest operating system, iOS 10, Apple has replaced its pistol emoji with this icon of a green water gun.

Apple is replacing its black pistol emoji with a green water gun icon. It's one of more than a hundred new and redesigned emojis that will be available on iPhones and iPads this fall, when the company releases its latest operating system.

The other new emojis include many icons depicting women and people of color. There are women of all apparent cartoon ethnicities surfing, running, swimming, playing basketball and weightlifting. There is also a new icon of a pride flag as well as depictions of families with only one parent.

The pistol emoji has caused trouble in recent years. Last year, a 12-year-old child in Virginia was charged with a felony and fined for using the pistol emoji in an Instagram post that police said amounted to a death threat, NBC News reported. A Texas teenager was arrested in 2015 over what police said was a tweet that allegedly threatened officers with a gun emoji, according to Texas Monthly.

But Apple's decision does not mean all gun emojis are going away.

Decisions about which emojis live and which don't are made by an organization called the Unicode Consortium, which oversees new emojis and manages the library of existing icons. Apple, Google and Microsoft are all members of the consortium, and together they consider petitions to create new emojis that will then be available for the member organizations to include on their operating systems.

For example, a petition last year to create an icon of a rifle was voted down by some members of the consortium, BuzzFeed reports. But the pistol icon that Apple is doing away with on its products is still available on other platforms, including Samsung phones and on Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Microsoft, which was one of the consortium members that vetoed the rifle icon, has used a toy gun icon — with a superhero-esque lightning bolt on the side — for years.

In its statement about the new icons, Apple did not address the pistol decision, but focused on the new icons of people. The company said it hopes its new lineup of "popular emoji characters reflect the diversity of people everywhere."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.