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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 06:02 GMT 07:02 UK
Heston steps down from gun lobby
Charlton Heston
Heston gave the NRA valuable publicity
Hollywood legend Charlton Heston has made his last public appearance as the president of the US gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA).

"I am going to miss you," he told a cheering audience at the NRA's annual convention in Orlando, Florida.

The group presented him with an 1866 Winchester rifle, which he held aloft and promised would only be taken "from my cold dead hands", a popular pro-gun-ownership rallying cry.

Heston, 78, decided to step down after announcing last year that he had developed symptoms of the degenerative brain disease Alzheimer's.

Heston's presidency gave the association a much-needed publicity boost during a difficult time for the pro-gun lobby, including fallout from the massacre at the Columbine school in Colorado in 1999.

"We know you have to go but you are the best," Wayne LaPierre, the group's executive vice president told the actor and activist.

Heston will be succeeded by Kayne Robinson, a former chairman of Iowa's Republican Party.

Angry but ill

The NRA's 1999 convention drew outrage when it was held in Colorado only two weeks after the Columbine shootings. But at the convention Heston said gun owners were being unfairly blamed.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore interviewed Heston
His pro-gun stance featured in Michael Moore's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, where the documentary-maker filmed an angry but obviously ill looking Heston at his home.

However, Heston has won grudging respect from his opponents.

Leading anti-gun campaigner Sarah Brady said: "He's a very worthy opponent. I still disagree with him philosophically, but I respect what he has done for his fight on the issue."

When Heston became NRA president in 1998 the association was at odds with the Democratic government, but in the past three years he has seen it gain protection from a more sympathetic Republican administration.

Classic roles

The NRA has recently won protection for gun manufacturers so they can not be sued for death and injuries caused by their products.

Students from Columbine high school comfort each other
The NRA was accused of adding to Columbine's pain
Heston, who also starred in classic Hollywood films such as Planet of the Apes and El-Cid, made his most recent film last year, playing Nazi scientist Josef Mengele in the Italian film Papa Rua Alguem.

He also played one of the overlord apes in Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes in 2001 - and delivered what many viewers saw as an anti-gun speech.

As well as possible Alzheimer's, Heston is in remission from prostate cancer.




SEE ALSO:
Heston's war cry for troops
11 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
Heston takes illness in his stride
05 Sep 02  |  Entertainment
Charlton Heston rallies the troops
26 Dec 01  |  Entertainment
Sheen defends anti-war views
18 Mar 03  |  Entertainment
Hollywood's march against war
28 Feb 03  |  Entertainment


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