US Olympic shooting competitors hope those watching the London Games do not link their firearm sports with the shooter who killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at an American theatre last week.
But the Olympic medallists said they could see how the horrific incident last week at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises might be generalised with their rifle, pistol and shotgun disciplines.
“It’s going to affect the participants of our sport. It's going to have an affect on certain perceptions of America,” said Vincent Hancock, a US Army soldier and defending Olympic men's skeet champion.
“We are one of the safest sports going. Our guys are safety-minded first. There are more injuries in pingpong than there are in shooting."
Bulgarian-born Emil Milev, a three-time Bulgarian Olympian who took a 1996 silver in rapid fire pistol and became a US citizen in 2009, said that anyone who would attack people in such a fashion would harm even without guns. “It's not the gun that kills. It's the person that kills," Milev said. "For me, this is not a person. There's something wrong with his head. He would find a way to do harm even if he can't get his hands on firearms.
“I don't think firearms use should struggle and be punished. I don't think firearm sports should be linked with that. Bulgaria is really strict on weapons and I have seen some crime with weapons."
Milev was worried when he saw news of the shooting in Europe because one of his Olympic teammates, Keith Sanderson, was going to see the movie at midnight, but not in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
“Go to the clubs,” Milev said. “Educate your kids." Matt Emmons, the 2004 50m prone rifle Olympic champion and 2008 runner-up, said that his experience has found sport shooters are far from extremists.