When Kim Rhode stepped onto the skeet field in London and broke 99 out of 100 clays at the 2012 Summer Olympics, she made history by becoming the first athlete ever to win a medal in five consecutive Olympic games.
Of course, setting records was nothing new to Rhode. Back in 1996, as a 17-year-old, she won the gold medal in double trap, making her the youngest female gold medalist in the history of Olympic shooting. Since then, she has garnered medal after medal in competitions around the world, most recently at the 2014 ISSF World Cup in May, and in the process has become one of sport shooting’s greatest ambassadors.
While few things can fluster Rhode on the skeet or trap range, treatment of shooters and other law-abiding gun owners by the so-called “mainstream” media has her frustrated. Why, she wonders, are gun owners so frequently portrayed in such a negative light? And why are the positive stories so often ignored?
After winning gold at the 2012 Olympics in skeet, and after watching the American flag raised and hearing the U.S. National Anthem, I was tossed into a whirlwind of media. One interview, for me, pointed out an all-too-common misunderstanding some have with guns. CNN’s Piers Morgan referenced the murders in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and asked me, “As someone who’s a professional marksman, what do you think about the whole debate that’s raging again about gun control and so on?”
I answered that it saddens me, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. But then I told him it’s troubling to me that the news so often blurs the lines between what bad guys do with guns and what we do as a sport, because really, the sport of shooting is about responsibility, discipline and focus—that’s what I represent. I don’t know why an Olympic athlete who just won a gold medal with her shotgun has to answer questions about an evil act committed by a troubled individual.
According to the FBI, baseball bats and other blunt objects are among the most used weapons in violent crimes. Yet you don’t see the MLB batting champion interviewed about people being hurt or killed with a bat. You don’t hear NASCAR drivers interviewed about drunk driving deaths. So why do they have to link gun owners to criminals?
Most people who own guns don’t see their shotguns, rifles and handguns in the negative way Morgan and some others see them. Like me, they go to ranges with friends and family to shoot, have fun and compete. Also, like I do, they enjoy hunting and the outdoors.
I would like to see journalists do more to show the positive side of shooting and gun ownership. They should come to some of the youths’ or women’s events where I volunteer. Reporters could meet kids who are earning scholarships for their education through shooting programs like the Scholastic Clay Target Program. These events host thousands of kids.
The media could also highlight the charity programs assisted by shooters, like the Kids and Clays Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars for the Ronald McDonald Houses around the nation. And they should do articles on how much money and time the NRA has spent educating more than 27 million children in all 50 states on gun safety through its Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program. This is good, wholesome stuff.
I benefited from NRA shooting programs, too. In fact, a lot of people helped me get where I am. I couldn’t have made it to five Olympics, let alone medaled in five, without the support and guidance from so many. That’s what learning to shoot teaches people.
I believe strongly in the right to keep and bear arms. I’m a Life member of the NRA. After my first son, Carter, was born, he got his own Life membership. Meanwhile, I’m still shooting and trying to become better. I hope I’ll have the chance to represent my great country in another Olympics.