The White House has released a photo of President Barack Obama skeet shooting in an apparent bid to allay concerns by gun owners that he opposes firearms following a school massacre in December.
The photo was made public as Obama prepares to hit the road on Monday to push his plan to curb gun violence as he presses Congress to enact sweeping gun restrictions.
The effort to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines has become a centerpiece of the President's second term agenda after a disturbed man gunned down 20 children and six adults on December 14 in the once quiet town of Newtown, Connecticut.
But his measures - both proposed legislation and executive orders - face stiff opposition from the firearms lobby, as well as from politicians, critics and gun enthusiasts who contend they will infringe upon the constitutional right to bear arms.
In this (file) photo released by the White House, President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David, Maryland. (AP Photo)
In recent days, Obama has made efforts to show that he is no stranger to sports shooting despite his efforts to stem rampant firearms violence.
The President said last week that he had picked up skeet shooting as a hobby, telling The New Republic that he shot at clay pigeons "all the time."
But his newfound love for the shooting sport was met with skepticism from conservative skeptics. Obama had not previously mentioned his skeet shooting habit in public.
The newly released photo, taken on August 4 at the President's Camp David retreat in Maryland and posted on the White House's Flickr page on Friday, shows Obama firing at clay targets, according to the caption.
The President, in jeans and a black polo shirt and wearing protective glasses and ear muffs, is seen looking down the barrel of a shotgun locked on his left shoulder moments after pulling the trigger, with smoke spewing out the barrel.
In this file photo, President Bill Clinton holds a Colt AR-15 rifle during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, where he launched efforts to pass the assault weapons ban.(AP Photo)
There was no confirmation, however, of when Obama - an avid basketball player - took up the hobby and how regularly he practices.
"It was a surprise to a lot of people in the industry when we saw that and heard that," National Skeet Shooting Association executive director Michael Hampton told The New York Times.
His group's 35,000 members do not include the President.
The National Rifle Association made light of the photo.
"One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun control scheme imaginable," National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told CNN.
In this file photo, George W Bush looks to the sky during a dove hunt in Hockley, Texas during his first Texas gubernatorial campaign. (AP Photo)