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Axelrod: White House should have released skeet-shooting photo earlier

Former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod on Monday said the White House should have released a photograph of the president skeet shooting sooner in response to critics.

“They should have put the picture out earlier. I don’t know why they waited five days to put that out,” said Axelrod in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It just rekindled the whole story.”

The White House on Saturday released a photo of President Obama skeet shooting at Camp David in August 2012, to help put to rest a controversy that arose after Obama said that he went shooting “all the time.”

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In an interview last month with The New Republic, Obama had said that he respected the nation’s traditions of hunting and frequently went skeet shooting at the presidential retreat with guests.

That claim of a previously undisclosed hobby invited skepticism from some GOP lawmakers, with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) challenging the president to a skeet-shooting contest. Blackburn dismissed the remarks as an attempt to curry favor with gun owners as the president pushes for an overhaul of the nation’s gun laws.

The White House photo released on Saturday showed Obama firing a rifle while wearing ear muffs and protective glasses. 

Axelrod on Monday said the administration was right to respond to critics, but said they should have done so immediately.

“You know Washington … this thing was cascading, conspiracy theories,” he said. “You had to do something, I just think they should have shut it down earlier.”

Turning to the larger debate on gun-control, Axelrod said universal background checks on firearm purchases stood the best chance of passing Congress.

Obama is asking lawmakers to pass bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition and enact mandatory checks on gun buyers. The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings last week, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has expressed skepticism about an assault-weapons ban being effective or mustering enough lawmaker support.

“Background check is a 90 percent issue. It seems to me that has a good chance to, or a chance, to pass. I think the magazines is a 65 percent issue, that has a chance, but a less of a chance, to pass,” said Axelrod.  “And I think assault weapons is an uphill climb.”

But he added that “there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t pass the background check.”

“We live in Chicago and one of the reasons we have such a huge problem in this city [with gun violence] is that all around us are areas with weak laws and very lax background checks. And a lot of illegal guns flow into this city, so it is a critical issue to get these background checks,” said Axelrod.