Obama skeet shooting: NRA says it's a ploy to confiscate guns

That photo of President Obama firing a shotgun continues to generate comment and controversy just as he’s about to leave Washington to promote his ideas about improving gun safety.

Pete Souza/The White House/AP
President Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Md., in August. The White House released a photo of Obama firing a gun two days before he heads to Minnesota to discuss gun control.

That photo of President Obama firing a shotgun continues to generate comment and controversy just as he’s about to leave Washington to promote his ideas about improving gun safety.

While some conspiracy theorists claim the photo of the president shooting skeet at Camp David is phony – digitally manipulated – most commentators accept it for what it is: A White House photo op to show that Mr. Obama has at least tried his hand at sport shooting.

"I believe that he shot skeet and if he does it and enjoys it, that's wonderful," Scott Melchisedech, former president of the Minnesota Skeet Shooting Association, told the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where Obama will talk about gun issues with law enforcement officials on Monday.

Still, Mr. Melchisedech suggested gently, “I could work with him a little bit on his form.”

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," Michael Hampton, executive director of the San Antonio-based association, told the Associated Press. Like others, Mr. Hampton questions the timing of the photo’s release, which was prompted by questions about Obama’s assertion in a New Republic interview that “up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.”

"Once it becomes controversial and there's problems, to talk about it then, that's where it becomes very debatable and is not being received as well as if he would have done this six months ago," Hampton said.

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The gun lobby sees something darker in the episode.

"One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable," said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association.

On “Fox News Sunday,” NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre charged that Obama’s aim is to confiscate law-abiding citizens’ rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

"During the campaign, when he said to people, 'I will not take away your rifle, shotgun, handgun,' they leafleted the country with flyers like this, 'Obama's not gonna take your gun,' 'Obama will protect gun rights,' ” Mr. LaPierre said. “And now he's trying to take away all three."

The flap over Obama’s gun-toting photo – at least one Republican lawmaker (Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee) has challenged him to a skeet-shooting competition at Camp David – comes as gun violence seems to be dominating the news.

The hostage standoff in Alabama, which began with the shooting death of a school bus driver, was into its sixth day Sunday. Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle – said to be “the most lethal sniper in US military history” with 160 confirmed kills in Iraq – was shot and killed at a Texas gun range Saturday.

Even the Super Bowl – the nation’s greatest entertainment diversion – was scheduled to include an ad sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the coalition of more than 900 mayors founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The ad calls on lawmakers to pass rules requiring background checks on guns, reports the AP, and it is narrated by children, with "America the Beautiful" playing in the background.

The ad includes decades-old footage of the NRA’s Mr. LaPierre saying the group approves of background checks on all gun sales. LaPierre recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the gun lobby no longer supports such background checks.

The subject may be deadly serious, but that hasn’t prevented comedians from weighing in.

In The New Yorker, Andy Borowitz writes that the photo of Obama “set off a panic of gun buying across the US.”

“Right-wing opponents of Mr. Obama were behind the frenzied gun sales, saying that they were terrified by the image of an armed and shooting President,” Borowitz writes. “In an effort to stem the panic, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters today that skeet-shooting took up relatively little of the President’s time at Camp David, and that his favorite leisure activities were ‘actually badminton and frisbee.’ The White House later released a photo of Mr. Obama putting away his gun and never using it again.”

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