Actor Charlton Heston took aim at the news media yesterday, chiding them for distorting the debate over gun control and eroding Americans' right to carry firearms.
Mr. Heston, 72, is best known for his roles in epic films such as "The Ten Commandments." But parting the Red Sea may seem like child's play compared with the tasks Mr. Heston has set for himself as a National Rifle Association vice president.
Speaking to a luncheon audience at the National Press Club, he vowed to help elect a "pro-Second Amendment president" in the next election, raise $100 million for NRA education programs before 2000 and revitalize the NRA's clout on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Heston was generally soft-spoken, but he directed a stinging assault on the media establishment. He accused the media of "a frightening misuse of constitutional privilege."
"Clearly, too many have used freedom of the press as a weapon not only to strangle our free speech, but to erode and ultimately destroy the right to keep and bear arms as well," Mr. Heston said.
"In doing so, you promoted your profession to that of constitutional judge and jury - more powerful even than our Supreme Court, more prejudiced than the Inquisition's tribunals."
In fact, the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, is the most important amendment of all, he argued. "My right to have a gun is more important than your right to rail about it in the press."
He also aimed a barb at the Clinton White House. "What else must young Americans think, when the White House proclaims, as it did, that a firearm in the hands of youth is a crime or an accident waiting to happen?" he asked.
"It's time they learn that firearm ownership is constitutional, not criminal."
He lamented the derision and abuse heaped on the Second Amendment in recent years, much of it, he said, at the hands of the news media.
"For too long you've swallowed manufactured statistics and fabricated technical support …