The White House released a photograph yesterday of President Barack Obama skeet shooting in an apparent attempt to alleviate the concerns of gun owners amid the national debate on gun control.
In response to a question as to whether he has ever fired a gun, Obama, who is seeking a ban on assault weapons and other measures to reduce gun violence, told The New Republic on Feb. 11 that he shoots skeet “all the time” at Camp David and respects the nation’s hunting tradition.
The photo, sent to reporters via Twitter by White House spokesman Jay Carney and Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer, shows Obama shooting clay targets on a range at Camp David Aug. 4.
"It was a surprise to a lot of people in the industry when we saw that and heard that," National Skeet Shooting Association executive director Michael Hampton told The New York Times.
The NRA, America's largest gun lobby, has rejected Obama's proposal to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It also dismisses plans to require background checks for all gun purchases, maintaining that existing gun laws should merely be better enforced.
"One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun control scheme imaginable," National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CNN.
The release triggered mockery online, with Twitter users circulating montages of Obama shooting at the Constitution or at Disney's Bambi, ignoring a warning from the White House that the photograph "may not be manipulated in any way."
In his interview with The New Republic, Obama did express respect for the nation’s hunting traditions, but urged gun control advocates to listen more attentively and open-mindedly to the other side of the debate.
"I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake," he said.
Pointing to how differently guns are handled in urban and rural areas, Obama added: "So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months.
"And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."
The national debate on gun control reached new heights after gunman Adam Lanza, 20, went on a shooting spree on December 14, killing 26 people, including 20 first grade students, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.