For the majority of athletes heading to Rio this year for the 2016 Olympic Games, there is really only one thing they have to worry about: the competition. Well, okay, maybe two things if you include the Zika virus.
However, for Olympic shooters it’s quite different. Not only do they have to worry about the competition, but they also have to worry about combating anti-gun stereotypes and a media that have become increasingly hostile to gun ownership.
In a recent interview with NPR, legendary olympian Kim Rhode spoke about the double standard that exists for athletes in shooting sports.
“At the London Games, the first question I got asked when I just won a gold medal in the Olympics wasn’t, ‘Tell us what it’s like to represent your country or what’s it like standing on the podium or what does this medal mean to you?'” said Rhode. “It was: ‘Can you comment on Aurora?'” — a reference to the mass killing in a Colorado movie theater.
Nothing’s changed since then as now the five-time medalist is fielding questions about Orlando and San Bernardino.
“No other sport in the Olympics gets that,” she says. “They don’t ask the swimmers to comment after somebody drowns.”
While Rhode feels for those who’ve lost someone at the hand of a madman with a gun, she also notes that the gun-control legislation that is so often proposed in the wake of these tragic events is ill-conceived.
“We have a lot of bills and legislation that are making it very difficult for people to go out and enjoy that sport that I personally love,” she said.
As a Southern California native, she pointed to a new law that requires background checks for ammo purchases and another law that prohibits one from loaning a gun to a friend.
“I go through a lot of ammunition,” she says, in reference to the new ammo law and, as it relates to the gun-lending law she said, “How is someone supposed to learn how to shoot if you can’t lend them a gun to try?”
Rhode also spoke about how the media consistently covers stories that put firearms in a negative light.
“Everything we hear [about guns] on the media and news is nothing positive,” she says. “They don’t talk about the scholarships that kids are getting or the shooting teams around the country where kids are learning things like discipline, respect and teamwork — things they’ll use for the rest of their life.”
Rhode has won an Olympic medal at each of the five preceding Summer Games. Rhode participates in trap and skeet competitions and since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, the 36-year-old has earned three gold medals, one silver, and one bronze. If she wins another this year, she’ll become the first American ever to win a medal at six different Olympics.
Now that would be a positive story. We’ll see if it gets any airtime.