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Powell: More questions than answers over Barack Obama's history with guns

In this handout provided by The White House,

In this handout provided by The White House, U.S. President Barack Obama shoots clay targets with a shotgun on the range at Camp David, Md. (August 4, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today, as they flew to Minneapolis for an event on tougher gun control, that The White House released a photograph of President Barack Obama shooting skeet at Camp David in an attempt to quiet “persistent questions.”

Clearly, that didn’t go very well.

The photograph, released on Saturday, depicts Obama shooting clay targets on Aug. 4, 2012. It comes after the president told The New Republic Magazine in an interview last week that he had, in fact, fired a gun before. 

The New Republic: “Have you ever fired a gun?”

President Obama: “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.”

New Republic: “The whole family?”

Obama: “Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And 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.”

As Obama has never before mentioned skeet shooting as a pastime, the admission was met with skepticism and a request for evidence. After a few days went by, The White House released the photograph.

This is not the first time that the current administration has offered evidence to swat away pesky but unrelenting questions about the president. In April of 2011, after nearly three years of speculation, Obama released his long form birth certificate to dispel enduring rumors that he is not a natural-born citizen of the United States. A copy of the certificate, in PDF format, can be found on The White House’s website.
It remains to be seen whether all future presidents will be subject to such scrutiny, or if the interrogation is specific only to Obama. And considering that giving in to pressure about such matters hasn’t been very productive, perhaps upcoming administrations should consider a different approach.

Given Carney’s reasoning, the decision to release the picture seems half thought out, as it has only brought about further questions since becoming public.

The president said he shoots skeet “all the time,” but how often? Is he any good at shooting? Does he personally own any firearms? Why haven’t we heard about it before?

Carney has already addressed the issue to reporters on a few occasions since the interview was published on Jan. 27, 2013. (He’s not sure how often Obama partakes in the activity, but the August 2012 visit was not the only time he has shot a weapon; the president owns no guns to his knowledge; Obama said, truthfully, that he has enjoyed skeet shooting, but he has never pretended that he grew up hunting.)

While the reform of gun laws is an important topic and heated debate, whether the president is lying about having fired a gun need not be. The fact that his statement was contested at all seems a reflection of our society’s distrust of government and the collective idea that if it can’t be found on the internet it can’t be true.

It seems imminent that Obama will be forced to speak on the matter again. If the move was meant to put an end to the controversy, it added fuel to the flames instead.