The Potowmack Institute

Charlton Heston Speaks

Link to:
Heston at the National Press Club, September 11, 1997
Heston at the Free Congress Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala, December 20, 1997

Harvard Law School, February 16, 1999

with Comments by G. Eyclesheimer Ernst
Potowmack Institute
amicus curiae in
US v. Emerson (1999)

The Rule of Law

The National Rifle Association
What does the NRA want?

The Founders and the AK47
Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan:
The NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas" "outflank", Wash. Post 7/6/89
The Washington Post
Cultivating Ignorance

Guns, Rights, the Libertarian Fantasy, and the Rule of Law
Not Seen in The Responsive Community

Getting Commitment from Congress
The blood on their doorstep
The Libertarian Fantasy on the Supreme Court
Thomas and Scalia
Joyce Lee Malcolm
Ayn Rand, Blackstone
Joseph Story's
"Palladium of the Liberties"

The Second Amendment in court

John Kenneth Rowland;
Lawrence Cress
Jerry Cooper
Gary Hart
LaPierre's List and the Law Reviews
Revolutionary Militia

Militia Act, 1792
Mass. Militia Act, 1793

The gun lobby cannot win what it wants in court, but not for the want of trying:
US v. Francis J. Warin
Second Amendment Foundation amicus curiae in Warin
. Federal District Judge Sam Cummings has absorbed much of the arguments in US v. Emerson now under appeal in the 5th Circuit.

The gun lobby has to have its rightwing fantasy by defeating legislation. To defeat legislation is has to employ an epic figure like Charlton Heston, regardless of what Heston himself understands and believes, as a public relations tool to put over its respectability and divert attention from what it really wants.

Culture wars is a strategy extended by the rightwing movement from Southern politics to national politics. A good description of the process is in Michael Lind's Up From Conservatism (1996)
[Order From Amazon Today]
In the culture wars there are many politically correct players who will play their assigned roles. Heston names a few.

Heston, however, raises no substantive issues. He does not explain if his notion of liberty is the liberty of citizenship under law and government or the liberty of individual sovereignty in the State of Nature which is the state of anarchy. Reaffirming the contours of citizenship under law and government is a matter national urgency. What it means to pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which is stands should be a part of every member of Congress's stump speech, but we can't get a statement out of them (.../397cong.html).

The Potowmack Institute would like to know what was the reaction at the Harvard Law School to this preachment. Did anyone ask Heston to explain the difference between liberty under law and government and liberty in the State of Nature? Do gun owners consent to be governed and give "just powers" to government? Do they "surrender up the executive power of the law of nature" when they enter into political community? Or, do they maintain a state of civic limbo somewhere between political community and anarchy? Is the Constitution a treaty among sovereign individuals in the State of Nature or does it institute government with "just powers" including the "just power" to defend itself against the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas" who would "outflank" it?

Fuller comments are provided on the National Press Club speech.

Harvard Law School, February 16, 1999:


I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living.

"My Daddy," he said, "pretends to be people."

There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo. If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best.

It's just that there always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here. I'm never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I'm the guy. As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty. . . your own freedom of thought. . . your own compass for what is right.

Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, "We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." Those words are true again. . . I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you . . . the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.

Let me back up a little. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

The National Rifle Association now protect rights?
Has anyone asked Heston or anyone else at the NRA to explain how any rights are secured under law and government. It is really very simple: You are arrested for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit or possession of a machinegun without a federal permit or for parading without a parade permit in a location where a parade permit is required. In these cases, constitutional doctrine is well-established. When you appear in court before a judge, the prosecutor reads the charge and the judge turns to you and says, "How do you plea, guilty or not guilty?" You have the opportunity to say I plea "not guilty, your honor on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional." If the judge agrees or can't decide, the prosecutor has to go to a higher court for a ruling to proceed with trial. If the judge does not agree, he proceeds with trial and you have opportunity to appeal to a higher court on constitutional grounds. Rights are not secured by defeating legislation through demagoguery, fraud and a public relations strategy.

Heston: I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve ... I serve as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a " brain-injured, senile, crazy old man." I know, I'm pretty old ... but I sure Lord ain't senile.

But is he a citizen of the United States under law and government or an individual sovereign, a law unto himself, in the State of Nature which is the state of anarchy?

Heston: As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are not the only issue.

No, it's much, much bigger than that.

I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963—long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist. I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe. I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.

Do innocent gun owners want to maintain a balance of power between a privately armed populace and any and all government?

Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country.

But would he participate in a strategy to keep gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority so as to maintain a balance of power between a privately armed populace of "armed citizen guerrillas" and any and all government?

Heston:But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

But what exactly is the difference between the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas" and Timothy McVeigh?

Heston: From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your mind like that? You are using language not authorized for public consumption!"

Since when should anyone take seriously Time magazine?

Heston: But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys— subjects bound to the British crown.

Now, of course, we will abandon law and government and returned to the State of Nature.

Heston:In his book, "The End of Sanity," Martin Gross writes that "blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.

Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the country, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it."

Let me read a few examples. At Antioch college in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation ... all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive. In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs— the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not. . .need not. . .tell their patients that they are infected. At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team "The Tribe" because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name. In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery. In New York City, kids who don't speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic. At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students.

Yeah, I know . . . that's out of bounds now. Dr. King said "Negroes." Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said "black." But it's a no-no now. For me, hyphenated identities are awkward . . . particularly "Native-American. " I'm a Native American, for God's sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American . . . with the capital letter on "American."

Finally, just last month . . . David Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word "niggardly" while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign. As columnist Tony Snow wrote: "David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly,' (b) didn't know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance."

What does all this mean?

It certainly does not mean we have to have the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas", unauthorised by any law, unbeholden to any public authority, patrolling our neighborhoods.

Heston: It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us what to do can't be far behind. Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression? Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe?

That scares me to death. It should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason. You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that ... and abide it ... you are— by your grandfathers' standards— cowards.

Here's another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they'll lose their jobs.

More than sixty articles have been published mostly in law journals in recent years fabricating a completely fraudulent interpretation of history. These are mostly written by libertarian or Confederate-leaning law professors who know nothing about history or political theory. The Potowmack Institute is confident that when the truth comes out it will become known that this pseudoscholarship has been promoted, if not outright commissioned, by the rightwing foundations that have been so active in recent years cultivating the public consciousness in almost every other area of policy. No one reads the pseudoscholarship and exposes the fraud. The true historians of the Second Amendment and the militia institution are not mentioned. See:
"What does the NRA want?"
"An Armed Community:...", Lawrence Cress, 1984
Rowland's dissertation, 1978
It becomes a serious matter when this pseudoscholarship establishes credibility on the Supreme Court.

Heston: Why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayor's pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers.

There is no connection. The manufacturer liability law suit are pursued because the liberal establishment and its foundations have apparently decided that they will not challenge the fraudulent interpretation of history and challenge the absurdity of the armed populace fantasy. They will not ask, What does the NRA want? They don't want to scare anyone or provoke any serious political leadership. Heston should have the good graces to express his gratitude. Real efforts towards a national firearms policy will begin when the Washington Post prints in full context what James Madison was really describing in Federalist Paper No. 46 and makes an issue of what the gun lobby really wants that it has to be so blatantly dishonest to make its case.

Heston: I don't care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you?

Democracy is dialogue!

An elitist organization like the National Rifle Association does not engage in dialogue. The NRA's Paul Blackman has been invited to clarify matters on the Potowmack Institute's Interactive.

Heston: Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, "Don't shoot me." If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.

Don't let America's universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism. But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation? The answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people

The Potowmack Institute would like to have independent corraboration that Heston was on the Lincoln Memorial with Dr. King in 1963.

Heston:. You simply ... disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely.

Has he told this to the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas"?

Heston: But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom. I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King . . . who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might.

Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam.

However, "a basic right of freemen to take up arms to defeat an oppressive government" (SAF's Warin amicus) is a natural right, a moral right, an inalienble right, a God-given right, but it is not one those certain unalienable rights— not an individual civil right— that can possibly be secured by government.

Heston: In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous laws that weaken personal freedom. But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies. You must be willing to be humiliated ... to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience discomfort. I'm not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have left their mark on me.

Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called "Cop Killer" celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers.

What did Ice-T have to say about the ATF's jackbooted thugs?

It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so— at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of "Cop Killer"— every vicious, vulgar, instructional word:


It got worse, a lot worse.

But, did it get as bad as "outflanking" this government with "armed citizen guerrillas"? Why could Heston have not read Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan's "The Founders and the AK-47"?

Heston: I won't read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.

Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore.


Well, I won't do to you here what I did to them. Let's just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't print that."

"I know," I replied, "but Time/Warner's selling it."

Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll never be offered another film by Warner, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk. When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's office. When your university is pressured to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honors . . . choke the halls of the board of regents. When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment . . . march on that school and block its doorways. When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you . . . petition them, oust them, banish them. When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month . . . boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.

Or, try to get Time magazine to print in full context what James Madison was really describing in Federalist Paper No. 46 and make an issue of what the NRA really wants that it has to be so blatantly dishonest to make its case.

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God's grace, built this country. If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree.

Thank you.

Heston at National Press Club, September 11, 1997
Heston at the Free Congress Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala, December 20, 1997

© Potowmack Institute