Rio: U.S. shooter Kim Rhode has a chance to tie a record for the longest consecutive streak of medal-winning performances at this month`s Olympic Games, but the six-time competitor shows no surprise when the discussion turns from sports to gun laws.
A new chapter in the long-running U.S. debate about gun rights opened this summer, when police departments in some major cities began to call for restrictions on laws permitting the open carrying of firearms after a former U.S. Army reservist shot dead five officers during a racially motivated rampage.
The laws, passed through in 45 of the 50 U.S. states by gun-rights activists who call them powerful proof of their rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, raised new concerns for police at a time of increasingly violent political protests.
Rhode and her teammates emphasise the safety of their sport, noting that while in Rio de Janeiro their guns are kept locked up in an arsenal. They also voiced support for activists who openly carry weapons.
"The Second Amendment was not put in there just so that we could go shoot skeet or go shoot trap. It was put in there so that we could protect our First Amendment rights and protect ourselves from our own government," Rhode said, referring to the amendment that protects the right to free speech.
The Dallas attack, which came shortly after an Islamic State-inspired gunman killed 50 people in Orlando in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, led Democrats to call for new restrictions on guns. Republicans rejected the proposals, saying they would not improve public safety.
Rhode agreed with that reasoning, saying strict gun laws in California and Paris had not stopped deadly mass shootings in December and November.
Asked about calls by police in cities including Dallas and Milwaukee for tighter limits on open carry, Rhode said, "I can’t speak for the police and what they feel, but I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment."
Teammate Vincent Hancock, a U.S. Army veteran, cited similar views and noted he routinely carries a licensed concealed handgun at home in Texas.
"People have a right to own firearms and to carry them, but they should be trained," Hancock said. He said he had rarely encountered people openly carrying guns in his home state, the epicentre of the open-carry movement.
"It`s rare," Hancock said. "It`s more about making a statement, the need to stand up and protect the rights that you have."