It was ‘Guns and Moses’ When Charlton Heston Spoke to Cartoonists

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By: Dave Astor

When news about actor Charlton Heston’s death reached editorial cartoonists this weekend, some undoubtedly recalled their 2000 convention in which the then-National Rifle Association president spoke.

Attendees at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists meeting in Minneapolis listened respectfully to Heston’s remarks, but several took issue with his anti-gun-control stance. Here’s the July 2000 story from E&P magazine:

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Charlton Heston came to the land of lakes to address a Red Sea of editorial cartoonists.

Actually, the Moses actor-turned-National Rifle Association president doesn’t think all editorial cartoonists are communists, but he does feel many take unfair potshots at the NRA and its members.

“The 80 million gun owners in this country — almost a third of the U.S. population — are portrayed as criminals, kooks, and hicks,” Heston said. “This crosses the line from political cartoons to comic-strip propaganda.”

He cited one cartoon showing the “last surviving NRA member” standing over dead bodies and another picturing the gun lobby as the devil. “Ha-ha,” Heston said sarcastically.

“All of you in this room have enormous power to shape public opinion,” he told attendees at the annual Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) convention. “Be true to your tradition of questioning conventional wisdom, not following the pack. Do in your cartoons what the AAEC did for me tonight: at least give every side a hearing. Fight fair.”

Editorial cartoonist Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press and Copley News Service asked why the NRA feels “the right to bear arms is more important” than the rights of Columbine students and others not to be killed by guns. Heston responded that school shootings have “nothing to do with guns. They have to do with maladjusted kids.”

He also said guns are “used far more to stop crimes than to commit crimes. But you don’t hear about this as much because no one is hurt and no police report is filed.”

Editorial cartoonist David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and North America Syndicate told Heston that “you come across as reasonable, but a lot of the messages from the NRA are paranoid and polarizing.” Cartoonist Tim Jackson of the Chicago Defender noted that one of these messages involves “stigmatizing people of color” to convince whites they need guns to defend themselves.

Heston — whose film credits include “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben Hur,” and “Planet of the Apes” — said he fought for civil rights before it was popular among whites to do so, and marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Which led caricaturist David Levine to ask the next day: “I wonder if it occurred to Mr. Heston how Dr. King was killed and by what?”

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