What is Skeet Shooting and Why is Obama Doing It?

The White House recently released a picture of President Obama skeet shooting, a hobby he has supposedly taken a great liking to. Skeet shooting is one of the few gun related recreational activities that is also a competitive Olympic sport. Using shotguns, shooters attempt to hit clay disks flung through the air at high speeds — in part, meant to simulate bird hunting. In light of all the recent gun related massacres, and a tough new gun control agenda being debated by congress, it's quite telling that the White House would choose to release this picture.

Despite many people's inflated expectations of what Obama's presidency was going to mean for historical policies, he has always taken the moderate route in his execution. Although people on the extreme right or left of debates tend to get a lot of spotlight, Obama has always tried to position himself as the reasonable rock in the middle that others should move towards.

As a senator, Obama took a lot of pro gun-control stances but when he became president this issue dwindled as a political priority. On September 2008, Obama said: "I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms … There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away." Despite this middle-of-the-road statement, gun sales skyrocketed for fear that imminent laws would surely come out of his administration. In 2009, Obama surprisingly signed a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons in national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, and another which let people carry guns in their checked bags on Amtrak trains. By 2010, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama an "F" grade for failing to enact any of the gun restrictions he campaigned on.

When then-Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot alongside six other people, Obama suggested, "a new discussion of how we can keep America safe for all our people." Once again, he remained short on specifics and didn't propose any new gun initiatives for the weeks to follow. But Sandy Hook changed everything. America has suffered every form of gun violence in its past, and Newtown wasn't even the first school-related massacre. But the images of little 6-year-olds senselessly slain by machine gun fire resonated in the American psyche. It was clear that a change had to come, with even the most fervent pro-gun groups simmering down their rhetoric.

Ever the moderate, Obama still doesn't want to completely alienate proud gun owners, and so releases this picture that shows his "respect" for gun-culture sports. Perhaps, this is the best approach for passing legislation: defy the absolutists, take the politically nuanced approach and move policy forward. Slow and steady might have the most rationale as a style, but perhaps some situations call for bolder leadership.