President Barack Obama has claimed that he goes shooting "all the time", while attempting to reassure American gun-owners that he respects their rights to use firearms.
Asked in a magazine interview whether he had ever fired a gun, Mr Obama (pictured) said he did so with guests at the president's rural retreat. "Up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time," he said. "And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations."
Mr Obama's plans for tighter firearms regulations were drawn up by Joe Biden, the vice-president, following the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, last month.
Mr Biden, whose proposals also include a background check system on all Americans trying to buy guns and a 10-shot limit for ammunition clips, has been quick to note that he owns a shotgun.
The president, however, is dismissed by many enthusiasts as an elite urban law professor who does not appreciate America's heritage of gun ownership.
He accepted in his interview that gun culture in rural areas was "very different" to that in urban areas, such as his home city of Chicago, where it is often linked to serious crime.
"If you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were 10, and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family's traditions, you can see why you'd be pretty protective of that," Mr Obama told ' The New Republic'.
A week before American football's Super Bowl the president risked further angering the heartland by expressing concern about the safety of the sport. Several high-profile professional players have in recent years developed brain damage, which has been linked to the frequent heavy impacts on their skulls caused by the sport. "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," said Mr Obama.
Meanwhile, Mr Obama has described Hillary Clinton as "one of the finest secretaries of state we've had" in an unprecedented joint television interview broadcast in the US last night. Mrs Clinton is due to stand down this week, following the confirmation of Senator John Kerry as her replacement at the State Department. (© Daily Telegraph, London)