The gun of an Olympic shooter is no different than a hockey stick to an Olympic hockey player. They’re tools of the trade; equipment used to compete, to excel, to win. But unlike hockey, athletes in shooting sports are held to a different standard.
“We have that stigma attached to our sport,” said 37-year-old Rhode. “When you are talking to a NASCAR driver, they’re not asked to comment on an incident that occurred with a vehicle.”
At the London Olympics, shortly after winning gold in skeet shooting, reporters asked Rhode about gun control – as if the two were intrinsically intertwined.
Can you imagine asking a NASCAR driver about drunk driving laws after winning the Daytona 500?
“We should have the right to keep and bear arms, to protect ourselves and our family,” she said. “The Second Amendment was put in there not just so we can go shoot skeet or go shoot trap. It was put in so we could defend our First Amendment, the freedom of speech, and also to defend ourselves against our own government.”
Rhode, our country’s most decorated Olympic shooter, is a native of Big Bear City and lives in California with her family, where she has been an outspoken opponent of the recent gun control laws proposed by Democrats in the state.
“I shoot 500 to 1,000 rounds a day, so having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo, or every time I want to bring ammo in or out of a competition or a match, those are very challenging for me,” said Rhode. “Also, I’ve had guns in my family for generations that have been passed down, and now I’m going to register them as assault weapons. And they will not be passed on to my son, or to me from my father. It definitely does effect me and give me a reason to speak out more.”
The Olympian, who became the first person to win Olympic medals on five continents with a bronze in the skeet shooting competition on Friday, is looking forward to passing along her love of shooting sports to her 3-year-old son someday, saying “I started when I was like 7 or 8 years old, and it was something that was a big deal in my family, to gain that rite of passage,” she said.
Friday’s win-or-nothing bronze match, which saw Rhode and China’s Wei Meng tied 15 apiece, sent the shooters into another dramatic shoot off. It took Rhode eight shots to beat her opponent, commenting afterwards, “I always say the bronze is tough, the gold is easy.”
The Friday competition also earned Rhode another honor, making her the first athlete to win an individual medal at six straight Summer Olympics.