Obama’s Skeet Shooting Draws “Constructive Advice” From Gun Industry Group

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Coming Feb. 19, FRONTLINE and the Hartford Courant team up to investigate the young man and the town he changed forever in Raising Adam Lanza. Also in the hour, reporters travel to Newtown, a town divided, and explore how those closest to the tragedy are now wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.

There was at least one group that wasn’t surprised to see pictures of President Barack Obama skeet-shooting: The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group that renovated the range at Camp David.

“We were honored to provide this service for the office of the Presidency, and our investment appears to be paying off by recruiting new shooters,” wrote Larry Keane, the NSSF’s general counsel and senior vice president in a statement announcing its involvement in the range. “Welcome, Mr. President.”

The NSSF is the gun industry’s trade group, representing some 7,000 firearms and ammunition manufacturers and retailers. It’s based in Newtown, Conn., near many of the major gun companies, like Smith & Wesson, Mossberg & Sons, and Colt Manufacturing, which have traditionally been based along the Connecticut River Valley.

Keane wrote in his statement that the NSSF provided consultants and donated “tens of thousands of dollars” of machinery and oversight to build the field to regulation standards, and provide shotgun safety instruction. The work was done at the request of the George W. Bush administration.

In the statement, the NSSF also offered Obama a bit of constructive criticism on his shooting stance: “Mr. President, try leaning a little further forward into the shot to better manage recoil.  Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, and put more weight on your leading foot.” Because the president is a lefty, Keane recommended he try one of the left-handed semiautomatic shotguns that have also been donated to Camp David.

Since it became the dominant industry trade group about 10 years ago, the NSSF has kept a much lower profile than the larger National Rifle Association, which represents gun owners and focuses on individual rights. The NSSF emphasizes the use of guns for hunting and shooting sports rather than home protection, for instance. When it has waded into legislative battles about gun control in Connecticut, the NSSF has tended to stress that regulation would hurt manufacturers and lead to a loss of jobs.

But more recently, the NSSF has begun to adopt language that aligns more closely with the NRA’s focus on defending the Second Amendment and the concern that any additional regulation is a slippery slope when it comes to guns.

It avoided making any statements for a month after the Newtown shooting other than a message on its website noting its close ties to the community and expressing condolences for the victims and their families.

But since then, it has outlined a position very similar to that of the NRA: It’s proposed adding more mental health records to the background-check database, but opposed additional regulation as a violation of Constitutional rights.

“Gun owners, by the way, have only a few short weeks before we see whether the Congress puts a target on our Second Amendment rights,” Keane noted in his skeet-shooting statement.

“So the outcome of this pending legislative debate is very important,” he wrote, still addressing the president. “And believe me, we’re watching that even more closely than the pictures of you shooting a shotgun at Camp David.”

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