Skeet shooting may be Obama’s honest hobby, but his new public announcement seems to be an effort to reach out to the gun-friendly right, a PR attempt that seems to be in vain. Commentators on all sides have reacted with skepticism. While the left seems more bemused than anything, gun supporters on the right have reacted with blatant disbelief and harsh criticism. “Skeet shooting, whether you’ve done it or not, doesn’t make you a defender of the Second Amendment,” said Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, according to The New York Times.
We can add this to a list of bargains Obama has made in the past four years to come across as a more centrist president at the expense of many of the left’s ideals. In the battle for health care reform, Obama sacrificed any talk of a public option for the sake of pushing at least some kind of bill through Congress. In the recent fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama agreed to Republican demands to increase the tax rate to 39.6 percent on incomes above $450,000 instead of $250,000, among other compromises.
Despite these concessions, Obama still faces a deeply divided country. The most recent Gallup ratings (from the week of Jan. 21-27) indicate that 91 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s job as president, while only 11 percent of Republicans approve. With those dismal statistics, one wonders why Obama is still fruitlessly trying to appease his opposition.
Now that the president has four years to pursue his liberal agenda without fear of reelection campaigns, many left-of-center supporters are hoping to see extensive progress. Obama’s inaugural address boded well, with Obama speaking more explicitly than ever in support of LGBT rights and climate change. However, many of his actions have adhered remarkably to the middle, which leads us to wonder whether the 2008 claims that Obama was socialist were—gasp—unfounded, and if he is in fact a rather moderate guy.
Specifically in the case of gun control, Obama should take a firm stance alongside liberal advocates of tighter restrictions. The NRA’s scoffing reaction to the claim that Obama does skeet shooting “all the time” illustrates the right’s constant refusal to cut the president any slack. He will not win their camaraderie with one photo of himself holding a shotgun. What all this talk of skeet-shooting does do, however, is weaken his arguments by detracting from the main point—that people are dying.
Publicizing Obama’s activities on the range at Camp David provides pure fluff and represents another in a long line of futile attempts to make concessions to a political opposition who will have none of it. If he’s going to push for tighter restrictions, Obama should be prepared to go all-in for once, something we didn’t see in his first four years.
Let’s turn away from the photo of Obama’s hobby and focus on moving forward. Instead of fraternizing with the NRA with an “I-shoot-guns-too” attitude, Obama should discuss changes in the availability of firearms and the fact that certain weapons are created with the sole purpose of killing other people. Quite frankly, what Obama does in his free time is an extraneous detail and serves only to soften the blow to the opposition. But it can’t soften the blow to the countless families who have lost loved ones in mass shootings in the past year.
—Erin Boss ‘16 is a student at Vassar College.