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Political Notebook

Photo evidence offered of Obama’s gun hobby

The White House on Saturday released a photo of President Obama firing a shotgun at Camp David in August.

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The White House on Saturday released a photo of President Obama firing a shotgun at Camp David in August.

WASHINGTON — When President Obama mentioned last week that he had picked up a new hobby — skeet shooting at Camp David — it was a surprising disclosure by a president whose main identification with guns these days is his effort to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

To some, Obama’s newfound enthusiasm for shooting clay pigeons also seemed a bit suspicious.

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So on Saturday, the White House tried to silence the skeptics by releasing a photo of Obama shooting on the range at Camp David in August. In the photo, the president is squinting down the barrel of a gun, moments after pulling the trigger.

The White House said the photo was taken on Aug. 4, Obama’s 51st birthday. But it offered no further details on whether his target practice was a regular hobby.

The notion of the president taking aim at targets flung into the air captivated some in the political and social media worlds at a time when he is pushing Congress to enact sweeping restrictions on high-capacity rifles and magazines.

Conservatives scoffed, comics mocked, a congresswoman challenged him to a skeet shooting contest, and the White House tried to make the whole matter go away.

‘‘It was a surprise to a lot of people in the industry when we saw that and heard that,’’ said Michael Hampton Jr., the executive director of the National Skeet Shooting Association, whoserolls do not include the president.

Obama is hardly the first politician to draw scorn for boasting of experience with guns.

In 2007, during his first presidential campaign, former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was ridiculed when he said, ‘‘I’ve always been a rodent and rabbit hunter — small varmints, if you will.’’

The commotion has its origins in the interview Obama gave to The New Republic, now owned by Chris Hughes, a former Obama campaign aide.

During the interview, Franklin Foer, the magazine’s editor, referred to the fight over gun control and asked the president if he had ever fired a gun.

“Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,’’ Obama said, referring to himself and guests.

“I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake.’’

He went on to say that the reality of guns in urban areas differs from that in rural areas. “So it’s trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months,’’ he said.

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