Heston urges gun owners to vote for Bush
HERSHEY, Pa. (Reuters) - National Rifle Association
President Charlton Heston, describing the presidential campaign
as "a holy war" for the constitutional rights of gun owners,
exhorted a cheering crowd in Pennsylvania Wednesday to win
the battleground state for Republican nominee George W. Bush.
Flanked by Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Ridge and top
staff of the gun rights group, the veteran Hollywood actor
compared NRA members to the 18th century American patriots who
won independence from Britain.
"They won our freedom with bullets. But we can defend our
freedom with ballots. That is the holy war, and it is a war,
never doubt that," Heston told an estimated crowd of 700 people
in Hershey, a manufacturing town near the state capital,
"That is a war that you in this room can help wage and
win," said Heston, adding: "I urge you to find every gun owner,
every NRA member, everyone who treasures American freedom and
get them out to the polls on November 7. It is our duty to be
blinded to everything else."
Heston predicted Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore
would "hammer your gun rights into oblivion" if elected. The
vice president, in the third and final presidential debate
Tuesday night, said his proposals for gun safety would not have
any effect on hunters or sportsmen.
Heston said the next president would be able to nominate as
many as four U.S. Supreme Court justices, and that Democrats
would use that advantage to undercut gun owners' rights if they
retained control of the White House.
The argument is similar to one used by abortion rights
advocates, who warn that a Bush presidency could install enough
anti-abortion justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark
case that established a woman's right to an abortion in the
Pennsylvania seen crucial to Bush
NRA support is seen as key to the Republican strategy for
winning Pennsylvania, the fifth-largest state in terms of the
Electoral College. Some analysts say the Texas governor must
win Pennsylvania's 23 electoral votes if he hopes to assemble
the 270 Electoral College votes needed for election.
Earlier this month, statewide polls showed Gore with leads
ranging into the double digits. But analysts say the race has
tightened, with Gore still leading by several points.
"He who wins Pennsylvania wins the White House. There's no
doubt about it. This state will vote for the next president,
whoever that is," said Pennsylvania State University political
science professor Michael Young.
Pennsylvania, where Democrats have a 500,000-vote edge in
registration, is the biggest of several Northern industrial
states, including Ohio and Michigan, being targeted by the Bush
Analysts say the state's estimated 1.2 million gun owners
could help Republicans compensate for potential weakness in
other large voting blocs, including senior citizens concerned
about Social Security and Medicare, union members, and moderate
Republican woman who oppose Bush on abortion.
Heston arrived in Pennsylvania from a series of appearances
in Michigan, which has a similar electorate rich in blue-collar
conservatives, hunters and sportsmen.
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