NRA’s `Cold, Dead Hands:’ 2012

Photograph by Candice Towell/Getty Images

National Rifle Association (NRA) President Charlton Heston holds up a rifle during his address at the 131st NRA convention at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Nevada, in this April 27, 2002 file photo.

Wayne LaPierre was channeling Charlton Heston today.

LaPierre, the longtime executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, issued a defiant speech today in Washington with the NRA’s answer to the schoolhouse shootings that felled 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, a week ago: Arm the nation’s school guards.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said LaPierre, urging Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.”

The answer to gun violence, the NRA suggests, is more guns.

“On the same day families lay three more children to rest in Newtown, the National Rifle Association wrongly called for increasing the number of guns around vulnerable children,” said Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “The NRA says they want armed guards in our schools.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat who lost her husband in a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad in 1993, said she was “saddened” by LaPierre’s speech: “The NRA’s leadership had an opportunity to help unite the nation behind efforts to reduce gun violence and avert massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School but it instead showed a disconnect between it and the majority of the American people.”

It was 12 years ago, during another presidential campaign year, when then-NRA President Charlton Heston, the actor, warned that the organization was under attack. Al Gore “is going to smear you as the enemy,” Heston said at the NRA annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 20, 2000. “He will slander you as gun-toting, knuckle-dragging, bloodthirsty maniacs who stand in the way of a safer America. Will you remain silent? I will not remain silent.”

Today, LaPierre was sounding a similar call to arms. He spoke of Americans as a modern-day militia.

“Sacred stuff resides in that wooden stock and blue steel, something that gives the most common man the most uncommon of freedoms,” Heston said, recalling farmers who rose to fight at Concord. “When ordinary hands can possess such an extraordinary instrument, that symbolizes the full measure of human dignity and liberty.”

Holding a shotgun in his right hand and then above his head, and naming Gore again, the old actor voiced an old refrain: “From my cold, dead hands.”

Jonathan Salant contributed to this report. 


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