Hollywood regularly remembered Charlton Heston to play larger-than-life heroes of the past (El Cid, Ben-Hur) or the troubled men of the apocalyptic future (The Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green). He divided the Red Sea as celluloid Moses, but his role in life was to divide America as leader of the National Rifle Association. A civil rights activist, who marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Heston saw gun advocacy as a natural extension of civil liberties.
A democrat who later turned Republican, he told President Clinton that: “America doesn’t trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don’t trust you with our guns.” In 2000, then speaking out against candidate Gore, he wielded a replica of a Revolutionary War musket, and bellowed: “Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!'” Although the phrase didn’t originate with him, Heston etched it into the forefront of gun culture and onto the bumpers of millions of Americans.
He hold the office as the president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003, during which time he frequently posed for ads holding a rifle. Enfeebled by Alzheimer’s, he appeared in Michael Moore’s anti-gun documentary, “Bowling for Columbine,” in which he was maligned for the above speech. Many in Hollywood came to his defense, a clear display of veneration they had for this aged actor. Heston died at age 84 in 2008. His wife noted that the first thing they had to do once he expired was to pry the shotgun from his cold, dead hands.