Heston on Political Life, Gun Violence

The Hoya’s Tim Sullivan sat down with acclaimed actor and NRA head Charlton Heston on Wednesday.

The Hoya: Mr. Heston you’ve acted in some of the most memorable films in Hollywood history, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid.

Heston: Thank you.

The Hoya: How did you make the transition to politics, specifically through the NRA?

Heston: It’s a curious thing. Fairly early in my career, I replaced Ronald Reagan as the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, which was fairly predictable. You know you’re supposed to take jobs like that … and I did. And I then ended up being president of the Screen Actor’s Guild for longer than Reagan had. Then not long while I was still president, I started being active in the civil rights movement, which was not popular in Hollywood then. That was very controversial; hard to believe it now but at the time, that was a big no-no. And I did that. Then Dr. [Martin Luther] King came to see me and we had coffee and toast, and he said, “Is it true that blacks cannot join the technical unions in Hollywood?” And I told Dr. King, “not only couldn’t you join, I couldn’t join. No one who is not a relative of a member can join.” And he said, “I would like to talk to them.” And I said “I’m sure I can get you a meeting, but you won’t get anywhere.” I was dead wrong. He swept them away. And so it was then that blacks were able to join the technical unions. And let’s see, after that I was the chairman of an international symposium of performing unions, including, which was not a performing union at all, the Soviets, of course they had a delegation, which were all KGB guys. But it was an interesting thing to do. And then I guess it was about then I joined the American Film Institute. I was chairman of that for a while. Then then-president Reagan appointed me to a committee on the arts and humanities, which took up a summer. And I guess it was about then; well no, I went overseas to Vietnam a couple of times. Not fighting; my war was the one before. A larger undertaking, I may say. And it was about then that I began doing some chores for the NRA. I was raised in Michigan in hunting country and everyone used firearms, so it was an easy fit for me. And by that time, I was doing every election cycle, going out to campaign, for maybe a day or two with this Congressman, that Senate aspirant. You know, its interesting to be part of the process. And that’s what I did. And more and more of the work I did came to be associated with the NRA, to which I belonged by then. And suddenly I was president. And there you are.

The Hoya: Six-year-old Kayla Rolland was shot to death by a fellow first grader last month with a gun his guardian had left errantly loaded. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 fellow students with guns they weren’t licensed to carry. Over the last couple of years they’re have been countless headlines about violence in schools, gun violence. How does the NRA respond to these kinds of crimes committed with guns?

Heston: Well, after the Columbine shooting, I wanted to talk to one of the parents, and I was able to reach a man who’s daughter had been killed. And we talked. And he said Mr. Heston I don’t use guns. I’m not a hunter.” But he said, “and I’ve lost my daughter, which is an irreplaceable loss. Its changed my whole life.” Then he said “I will tell you this. This is not about guns, its about maladjusted kids.” And, I think that’s true. But that he would say that, says a great deal.

The Hoya: Thank you very much.

Heston: Thank you.

Related Links

 Gun Control Debate Ignites Around Heston

 Students, Community, Politicians Gather to Rally for Gun Control

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