Apple and Microsoft joined hands to quietly remove rifle emoji from Unicode 9.0

Unicode, the technical organisation that supervises and chooses emojis across platforms, has removed the rifle from a list of potential emojis expected to be added in this June’s Unicode 9.0 release. The decision was led and championed by one of tech’s biggest companies: Apple.

According to Buzzfeed, both Apple and Microsoft, two of the 12 full voting members of the Unicode consortium, argued that a second gun was unnecessary. Apple also mentioned that it would not support the icon on its phones and tablets.

“I heard Apple speak up about it and also Microsoft….Nobody in the room seemed to mind not encoding the rifle,” one member present at the discussion told Buzzfeed.

It is claimed that the move was agreed easily, and the other candidate the consortium rejected during the meeting was ‘modern pentathlon,’ which depicts a man firing a pistol.

Apple is one of Unicode’s largest member companies and not only has voting rights, but also holds significant influence. Millions of people use emojis on Apple’s software platforms. Earlier this year, the company announced it delivers as many as 200,000 messages per second across iMessage.

Unicode members are reluctant to talk about the rifle although it was a unanimous decision. Apple declined to comment on the company’s involvement in the decision, and a dozen Unicode members declined to speak about the discussions.

When reached for comment, Unicode President Mark Davis confirmed the move but, in keeping with the cryptic organization, refused to elaborate on the reasons why. “The committee decided not to mark them as Emoji, but to add them as characters (that is, normal black & white symbols),” he wrote in an email to BuzzFeed News. Like nearly everything Unicode does, the decision is technical and complicated, but basically this just means that a rifle will show up in the official Unicode Character Database but will not appear on any standard emoji keyboard.

The consortium includes executives from Microsoft, Oracle, Google, Facebook, IBM, Apple, and Yahoo and other technology giants, who meet every quarter.

Unicode had apparently proposed the rifle as part of a set of emojis pegged to the Olympics that included medals, boxing gloves, goal nets and drums. Many of these other items have been approved and added to the most recent version of the Unicode standard.

In the past, Apple has championed socially conscious emojis as well. In 2014, the company openly supported adding racial diversity to the character set, and worked with the consortium to implement this quickly. In addition, the macOS used to exclude the gun, knife, and other violent symbols from its emoji picker, points out Ars Technica.

The final version of the Unicode 9.0 spec is expected to be released on June 21. While Microsoft and Google have already included Unicode 9.0 emoji in the OS updates that they scheduled to release this fall, it is assumed that Apple will follow suit when it’s ready.