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
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. …