Gun-Bearing Faithful Not Resting on Laurels ; Charlton Heston Employs Toothy Grin - and a Snarl of Defiance - as Weapon of Choice before National Rifle Association Meeting

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Charlton Heston raised an 1874 rifle over his head this weekend as if it were the staff he used to part the Red Sea in "The Ten Commandments." With his toothy grin and a snarl that sent thousands of fellow National Rifle Association (NRA) members into ecstacy, the four-term president of the group bellowed, "From my cold, dead hands!"

It was a dire rallying cry, designed to energize the members at a moment when life at the NRA is good and imminent danger of significant gun-control legislation is not particularly present. They now have a staunch ally in the White House, all but eight states offer some sort of permit allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons, and even some liberal Massachusetts colleges now host chapters of an organization called Second Amendment Sisters that wants guns to defend against rapists.

But an advocacy organization with weak or mismatched opponents could find itself without a pressing purpose, so there was Mr. Heston at the 131st annual convention of one of the world's most powerful lobbying organizations, issuing his unflinching statement.

Then there was Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, also working to whip up emotions by likening Monster.com entrepreneur Andrew McKelvey to Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. Mr. McKelvey started Americans for Gun Safety last year and has stated that he agrees with the NRA's basic point that the public has the right to bear arms. Nonetheless, Mr. LaPierre caricatured him, insisting he's a front for a "shadowy network of extremist social guerrillas" similar to the Taliban.

Making the most of the analogy, he asked the crowd to consider the bin Laden-McKelvey similarities: "A billionaire with an extremist political agenda, subverting honest diplomacy, using personal wealth to train and deploy activists, looking for vulnerabilities to attack, fomenting fear for political gain, funding an ongoing campaign to hijack your freedom and take a box- cutter to the Constitution."

Indeed, the organization anchored its conference with references to Sept. 11, which were omnipresent throughout the weekend. This was a red-white-and-blue celebration that included Lee Greenwood crooning "God Bless the USA" and a session offering standing ovations to a parade of Sept. 11 survivors who were both heroes that day and, coincidentally, NRA members.

"The connection between the NRA and 9/11 is that America has to remain strong, and the NRA is one of the strengths of America," Mr. Greenwood said, explaining his appearance at the convention. …