It’s all the fault of Moses. Or more precisely Charlton Heston, who portrayed God’s emissary in the epic 1956 film The Ten Commandments. The actor turned activist subsequently lent his divine authority to the cause of guaranteeing that even the most deranged gun nut in America has the “God-given right” to own a firearm.
Heston was president of the National Rifle Association when he reiterated that catchphrase in Michael Moore’s 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, which explored this country’s propensity for gun violence. But it was two years earlier, while addressing the NRA’s 129th convention, that Heston galvanized the anti-gun control movement with an over-the-top pledge.
Brandishing a replica of a Revolutionary-era flintlock rifle, he didn’t merely warn that Vice President Al Gore—a 2000 Presidential candidate who favored eminently sensible regulation of gun sales—“would take freedom away.” Hes ton thundered, “I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: From my cold, dead hands!” It was a truncated version of a popular NRA bumper sticker reviling gun control: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”