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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 21:56 GMT
Gun lobbying plan backfires in US

By Tom Carver
BBC correspondent in Washington

An attempt by America's National Rifle Association (NRA) to "out" Hollywood stars who support gun control appears to have backfired.

Gun shop
Supporters of gun control say it is too easy to buy a gun
The NRA published on its website a blacklist of famous people who are opposed to certain forms of gun ownership.

But after news of the list leaked out, thousands of Americans have asked to be added to those of the stars.

The 19-page list called Anti-Gun Individuals & Celebrities is displayed on the NRA's website.

The 333 names read like a who's who of Hollywood and the media world in the US.

The NRA says stars like Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Sting, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen and Catherine Zeta-Jones have all "lent their names and notoriety to anti-gun causes, speaking out for anti-gun legislation and providing a voice for anti-gun organisations".

"Our members don't want to buy their songs, they don't want to go to their movies, don't want to support their careers," said the National Rifle Association's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre.

Hoffman 'disappointed'

"If those listed are so embarrassed or ashamed about NRA documenting their anti-freedom position," the NRA website says, "perhaps they should reconsider their positions."

But, far from being embarrassed, several of the stars have said they are proud of being on an NRA blacklist.

And others have written to the NRA complaining that they had been left off.

Dustin Hoffman wrote to the NRA's president, Kayne Robinson, saying that "as a supporter of comprehensive gun safety measures, I was deeply disappointed when I discovered that my name was not on this list".

His name has since been added.

Dustin Hoffman is starring in the recently released Runaway Jury - a movie about a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer in America.

Powerful lobby

The gun-control lobby is using the blacklist as the basis for its own website, inviting members of the public to join the stars.

They claim that their website has attracted 50,000 signatures in the first two weeks of operation.

The NRA is one of the most formidable and successful lobby groups in America.

It claims to have four million members and has repeatedly prevented tighter gun control legislation from being enacted in America.

Election issue?

A 1994 ban on assault weapons is due to expire next year.

The Democrats are trying to replace it with a tougher law that would prohibit a wider range of weapons.

So far, gun control has not made much impact in the race for the presidency among Democratic candidates.

When he was governor of Vermont, a state with a large number of hunters, Howard Dean said he opposed any form of gun control.

He has modified that position and now says he supports the ban on assault weapons, along with all the other candidates.

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