Obama the skeet-shooter. (Flickr/White House)

Forget the “birthers.”

The tin-foil hat crowd demand that President Obama produce evidence of his American birth is so 2011.

The whacked-out fantasists of the moment are “skeeters”—Obama critics so unhinged that they have trouble imagining that a president who promotes gun safety would ever actually touch a gun.

When Obama mentioned in a recent interview that, like millions of responsible gun owners, he enjoys skeet shooting, it was open season for the skeeters. So incredulous were they about the notion that the president might actually enjoy shooting clays that a Republican congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), went on national television to join what was referred to as “a chorus of skeptics who questioned President Barack Obama’s recent comments about his hobby of skeet shooting, a sport where participants fire shotguns to break airborne clay disks.”

“If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this?” grumbled Blackburn in a CNN appearance that mocked the president. “Why have we not seen photos? Why hasn’t he referenced this at any point in time?”

So the White House released a photo of the president firing what looks to be a 12-gauge Browning.

Obama’s stance may not meet Olympic skeet competition standards. But he looks comfortable enough with the gun. So comfortable that the photo might ease the concerns of a lot of gun-owning Americans who—like most National Rifle Association members—appreciate their firearms but are coming to accept that some regulations are necessary to protect against illicit trafficking in weapons and gun violence.

That’s got the gun lobby rattled. If they can’t portray the president as reflexively anti-gun, it gets a lot harder to oppose background checks and other simple gun-safety measures.

So now the skeeters, no longer in complete denial, are claiming that the skeet-shooting picture’s are “a ploy” to advance the cause of gun control.

“One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable,” griped Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the National Rifle Association. NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre rushed to the nearest Fox News camera to declare: “During the campaign, when he said to people, ‘I will not take away your rifle, shotgun, handgun,’ they leafleted the country with flyers like this, ‘Obama’s not gonna take your gun,’ ‘Obama will protect gun rights,’ And now he’s trying to take away all three.”

But, just as the skeeter skeptics were wrong to question the president’s shooting claim, so they are wrong to lie about his gun-safety agenda. It’s not anti–Second Amendment, and its not anti-gun. It’s the response of a leader who understands that “we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”

That’s what’s got the NRA leadership scared.

The gun lobby just got bit by its skeeter fantasy.

And LaPierre knows, though he will never admit it, that one picture might yet speak a thousand words about Obama’s balanced stance.  

The NRA's political power is a myth. Read John Nichols's takedown