The search giant is actually one of the many companies that has made a decision to change the emoji in recent years. Interestingly, the preceding version of the emoji was just revamped in 2017, with the prior version in use for three years.
Microsoft ironically used a toy gun emoji until 2016 before changing it to a revolver. While gun control remains a hot button topic, it appears that most tech giants-Google now included-would rather play it safe and promote a gun that squirts water instead of one that shoots bullets.
The change is reportedly an effort to minimize cross-platform confusion, "avoiding a scenario where a user may pick a toy gun from their native emoji keyboard on Apple, Google or Samsung devices, and have it show as a weapon on Facebook". Still, there's no pump action on any of the emojis, meaning there's plenty of room for Facebook or Microsoft to take the lead with a two-handed super soaker. Its orange water gun looks to be able to carry a lot more water than the others' lightweight offerings. The new design was not widely adopted - if not critiqued - until this year where there's been a rash of changes on other platforms. Starting today a new Android update rolling out will replace the gun emoji with a water pistol Google announced. That includes smartphones updated to the upcoming Android 9.0 "P" due for release in May.
It might seem like a small thing to have to change the gun emoji, but compatibility issues aside, we're of course at a pivotal point socially when it comes to gun issues.
Emojis are approved by the Unicode Consortium, the industry body which oversees software standards and developments, but tech platforms are at liberty to introduce their own designs of approved glyphs.