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Apple to replace gun emoji with water pistol when iOS 10 rolls out

When Apple releases more than 100 new and redesigned emojis later this year, fans of the black gun are likely to be disappointed - the menacing symbol is going to be replaced with a green water pistol.

The swap will come when Apple rolls out its new operating system - iOS 10 - and will be among a number of updated emojis on offer, including occupational emojis now available in female versions (such as a female weightlifter and female engineer) and new family configurations.

Apple doesn't create emojis; they're made by the independent Unicode Consortium, which standardizes the way emoji characters are encoded so that they can appear on a series of platforms, including iOS and Android.

Apple has declined to comment on the change in the gun emoji, which was reported by several tech news outlets, and the tech giant's statement on the upcoming release of new emojis largely focused on gender equality and diversity.

But gun control advocates have hailed the symbolic move as a step forward. New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, a non-profit organization, ran a Disarm the iPhone campaign targeting the pistol emoji. The organization's Executive Director Leah Barrett told CNNMoney that Apple's move showed it was standing up to the gun industry. "There are many more life-affirming ways to express oneself than with a gun," she said.

It comes after a series of mass shootings put the spotlight back on U.S. gun control issues.

The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that tracks gun violence statistics, estimates that 214 shooting incidents have taken place in the U.S. since the beginning of the year, with the deadliest being the Orlando nightclub shooting in July that resulted in the deaths of 49 people. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country's history.

Shiv Putcha, associate director of consumer mobility and telecoms at market intelligence firm IDC Asia-Pacific, told CNBC that tech companies could no longer afford to be apolitical.

"I see the green water pistol as Apple's innovative but telling way of announcing their position on a hot-button political issue," he said.

This is not the first time the company has taken action against gun violence. Techcrunch reported that since 2015 Apple's App Store has rejected games that used previews depicting gun violence.

Nor is Apple is not the only tech giant apparently making a stand on the gun control issue. Uber, the ride-hailing app, bans drivers from carrying guns while on the job under its Firearm Prohibition Policy, while Google does not approve the promotion of firearms under its advertising policy.

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