Seeking to put to rest questions of whether President Obama was shooting straight when he told a magazine interviewer that he went skeet shooting "all the time," the White House on Saturday brandished a photo for reporters of the president blasting away with a shotgun positioned awkwardly against his left shoulder.
The photograph, which was dated August 4 — the president's birthday — shows a jean-clad commander in chief wielding a shotgun with his left index finger on the trigger — albeit not the best of form, according to skeet shooting enthusiasts.
The White House photographer even managed to capture a couple puffs of smoke as further evidence that Obama had indeed pulled the trigger despite a questionable record of standing up for Second Amendment rights, insist GOP critics.
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The National Rifle Association, which has rejected Obama's proposals for gun control, blasted 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 president responded to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn., by proposing legislation to mandate background checks for all gun buyers, a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips and reinstatement of a ban on the sale of assault weapons.
Saturday’s release of the photograph, which was taken at Camp David, came in response to questions at Monday's press briefing of how frequently Obama shoots skeet and whether photos existed. White House press secretary Jay Carney subsequently said he didn't know how often.
Pictures may exist, he said, but he hadn't seen any.
Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, expressed doubt about Obama’s skeet shooting.
“You know, if you don’t have the photos, if this is not something that’s a new hobby, then I think he should invite me out to Camp David and I’ll challenge him,” Blackburn said on CNN, according to a transcript.
Asked at the press briefing for a reaction to Blackburn’s challenge, Carney responded, “I have none.”
Obama was also wearing a dark blue, short-sleeved polo shirt, sunglasses and ear muffs in the photograph.
The president continues his pressure on Congress to curb gun violence when he speaks this Monday at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Special Operations Center.
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.
Obama's aides were in the awkward position of standing by his comments in the magazine article while resisting reporters' demands for proof that he was indeed a regular on the shooting range at the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains.
The photo was sent to reporters via Twitter by White House spokesman Jay Carney and Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer.
"Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time," Obama said in the interview released last weekend. He last visited the presidential retreat 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."
"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 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.
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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.
"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.
In the magazine interview, Obama was quoted as saying, "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 explained.
"Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas. And if you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were 10, and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family's traditions, you can see why you'd be pretty protective of that."
He went on to say that his biggest task is attempting to bridge those gaps over the next several months. “And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes," Obama said.
The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters contributed to this report.
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