American shooter Ginny Thrasher took gold in the women's air rifle event in Rio, Aug. 6. 2016.
American shooter Ginny Thrasher took gold in the women's air rifle event in Rio, Aug. 6. 2016.

American shooter Ginny Thrasher, a 19-year-old competitor in the women’s air rifle event, took gold - the first of the 2016 Summer Games.

But amid the well-deserved celebration, Thrasher talked about the controversy over gun control in the United States and how it has affected the sport of shooting.

“Some of the [controversy over] gun laws in America is just distracting from our sport, which is very different … I just tried to focus on the competition,” Thrasher said.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, she answered questions about the hot-button issue important to many Americans - especially in this election year.

Virginia Thrasher, center, of the United States ho
Virginia Thrasher, center, of the United States holds her gold medal for the Women's 10m Air Rifle competition during the award ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6, 2016.

California adopts tighter laws

According to USA Today Sports, the sport of shooting has been caught up in the discussion about gun rights. Earlier this week, six-time Olympian Kim Rhode spoke about how new laws in California, where she resides, have affected her training.

“We just had six laws that were passed in California that will directly affect me. For example, one of them being an ammunition law. I shoot 500 to 1,000 rounds a day, having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo or when I bring ammo out for a competition or a match – those are very, very challenging for me,” Rhode said in Rio, where she is also participating in the Summer Games, The Guardian reported.

In the western state of California, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a package of laws that added to the list of some of the tightest laws in the country. Among other measures, one new law requires ammunition purchasers to undergo background checks.

President candidates on gun control

Gun control rights are one of many issues that sharply divide the two leading 2016 U.S. presidential contenders, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Clinton, seeking to become the first female U.S. president, says she supports an individual's right to own a gun, but has called for new gun sale restrictions to curb mass shootings. She supports ending gun manufacturers' immunity from lawsuits by family members whose relatives have been killed by gun violence.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Cli
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at the Omaha North High Magnet School in Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 1, 2016.

Trump has been much more vocal in saying he supports the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - adopted in 1791 - which says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The Supreme Court ruled in separate 5-4 decisions several years ago that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns, and applies to state and local gun control laws.

The United States has by far the highest gun ownership per capita in the world along with the highest rate of shooting deaths.

While the right to own guns is part of the country's Constitution, there are some limits such as background checks people must pass before buying a gun.

A GenFoward survey of 1,940 adults conducted in July showed that about 9 in 10 young adults support criminal background checks for all gun purchases. More than half of people interviewed, 57 percent, support a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

Among the interviewees, 59 percent believe owning a gun can protect a person from being victim of a crime.

Thrasher, who will be back at the West Virginia University next week, chooses to focus on the competition.

“For me to start Rio 2016 with a gold medal for the USA makes me incredibly proud. I started to realize it was a real possibility about half way through but I pushed that quickly out of my mind,” she said.