Did you know that Charlton Heston—who after a long acting career became president of the National Rifle Association, in which capacity he was given to waving rifles over his head while declaiming, “from my cold dead hands” (an informal abbreviation of “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers”)—was once a gun-control advocate?
It was certainly news to me until Vesla M. Weaver, a research fellow at the Brookings Institution, forwarded me a copy of the following document from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. Because hers didn’t reproduce well, I use here a copy reprinted on the Web page of the Gun Owners Alliance, an anti-gun-control group that’s attacked Heston and the NRA for being insufficiently steadfast in opposing gun control.
The document that appears on the following page—a copy of the actual gun-control statement issued in Heston’s name back in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy—also comes via the Gun Owners Alliance’s Web page, where you can find these related documents.
As a result of efforts by Heston and others, Congress passed the 1968 Gun Control Act, by far the most sweeping gun-control measure ever enacted into law in the United States. It banned mail-order and interstate gun sales, required handgun purchasers to be 21 or older, and prohibited importation of cheap “Saturday Night Special” handguns.
Asked about his previous support for gun control in a December 1998 interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, Heston replied, “I’ve made a number of mistakes in my life, Mike.”