The NRA: Arms and the Omega Man

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PHILADELPHIA: Who better to lead the NRA out of the wilderness than Moses? After Charlton Heston was elected President of the gun lobby Monday, with almost universal acclaim from its national convention, some members seemed to think they'd cast the Biblical leader himself. "We have been demonized by the media," said executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, "and this is a way to say hey, Moses is on our side."

After Heston's convention performance, LaPierre's confusion is understandable. "I have come here to take back what is ours," boomed the voice from the mount Saturday. "Too many gun owners think we've wandered to some fringe of American life and left them behind. We will win back our rightful place in the mainstream of American political debate."

The NRA's 2.8 million members might have been forgiven for thinking they were already there, what with the most powerful man in Congress -- Trent Lott -- being their keynote speaker. But the 73-year-old Heston is on a mission to unite the moderate and hard-line gun factions, and facts aren't going to get in the way. Least of all the fact that he supported gun control back in the 1960s, nor the fact that he described AK-47s last year as "inappropriate for private use." To many users, that's like breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, few are prepared to oppose a man who can take them to the Promised Land -- or at least deliver a good sound bite after the next school shooting.