- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

Defending the right of Americans to own guns is not "just about guns," but rather is part of a "cultural war" against political correctness, actor Charlton Heston said last night.

"What I confronted when I became president of the [National Rifle Association] is an overwhelming Orwellian tyranny sweeping this country, a fanatic fervor of politically correct thought and language," Mr. Heston said in a speech at Georgetown University.

The 75-year-old actor, who portrayed Moses in "The Ten Commandments," said that when he accepted the presidency of the NRA, he "went straight from Moses to the devil … from celluloid saint to cultural sinner" according to his critics.

"Get involved with a politically unpopular cause and you'll quickly find out who your friends are," Mr. Heston told the audience of more than 700 students who packed Georgetown's Gaston Hall.

"At first I thought the issue was just about guns," he said, adding that he has since learned "that the gun debate is a lot more complicated."

Having been struck by "the bombshells of the cultural war," Mr. Heston compared that conflict to the War Between the States: "Today the battle is for your hearts and minds, for the freedom to think the way you choose to think, to follow that moral compass that points to what's right."

Mr. Heston said his position as NRA president is based on firm principle.

"I believe very strongly in the Bill of Rights," he said, "and the Second Amendment provision to keep and bear arms is one of those rights… . Should law-abiding citizens be able to own them, or should a Big Brother government say no? Seems simple enough, right?"

Those who disagree with Mr. Heston were out in force yesterday at Georgetown, as three Democratic lawmakers Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro spoke to an anti-gun rally sponsored by the university's Campus Alliance to End Gun Violence. The alliance also sponsored a panel discussion on guns yesterday.

Eight television crews were on hand last night for Mr. Heston's speech, which was sponsored by the university's Lecture Fund.

Taking questions from students after his speech, Mr. Heston said he thought Republican candidate George W. Bush "would be a good president" who would support the NRA's position on guns.

Emphasizing the importance of this year's election, Mr. Heston urged students, "Whoever you vote for, for God's sake vote."

One student prefaced a question by citing a statement by President Clinton at a news conference yesterday, prompting Mr. Heston to reply: "I must say, I feel more comfortable with the opinions of the Founding Fathers."

In his speech, Mr. Heston urged Georgetown students to reject political correctness, "a cultural cancer that is eating away at our society."

"Don't let America's universities serve as incubators for a rampant epidemic of this new brand of McCarthyism," he said.

College students "now appear to be the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge," he said, referring to the 1775 battle that opened the American Revolution.

If the Founding Fathers had been "enamored with political correctness," he said, "we'd still be King George's boys."

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