Two days before President Barack Obama’s first trip outside Washington to promote his gun-control proposals, the White House tried Saturday to settle a brewing mystery by releasing a photo to back his claim to be a skeet-shooter.
Obama had set inquiring minds spinning when, in an interview with The New Republic magazine, he answered “yes” when asked if he ever had fired a gun. The admission came as a surprise to many.
“Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet-shooting all the time,” Obama said in the interview released last weekend, referring to the official presidential retreat in rural Maryland, which he last visited in October while campaigning for re-election. Asked whether the entire family participates, the president said: “Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there.”
Obama never mentioned skeet shooting before that interview.
The White House photo released Saturday is dated Aug. 4, 2012. The caption says Obama is shooting clay targets on the range at Camp David. Obama is seen holding a gun against his left shoulder, his left index finger on the trigger and smoke coming from the barrel. He is wearing jeans, a dark-blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, sunglasses and earmuffs.
The National Rifle Association, which has rejected Obama’s proposals, scoffed at the photo.
“One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable,” said Andrew Arulanandam, the organization’s spokesman.
The NRA opposes Obama’s call for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and says requiring background checks for all gun purchases would be ineffective because the administration isn’t doing enough to enforce existing gun laws.
Asked at Monday’s press briefing how frequently Obama shoots skeet and whether photos existed, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he didn’t know how often. Pictures may exist, he said, but he hadn’t seen any.
“Why haven’t we heard about it before?” Carney was asked.
“Because when he goes to Camp David, he goes to spend time with his family and friends and relax, not to produce photographs,” Carney said.
Obama is accompanied almost everywhere by at least one White House photographer.
Carney declined to comment on the decision to release the photo, which he had announced on Twitter. The release appeared to be part of a strategy to portray Obama as sympathetic to gun owners and opponents of his gun-control measures who argue the proposals would infringe on an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
A top official with the National Skeet Shooting Association said the photo suggests Obama is a novice shooter.
“This isn’t something he’s done very often because of how he’s standing, how he has the gun mounted,” said Michael Hampton, executive director of the San Antonio-based association.
Hampton said Obama’s remark about “skeet shooting all the time” and the White House photo would have met less skepticism had the president spoken about his hobby months before this new debate over guns in the U.S.