Thou shalt vote no on Initiative 676. That’s Charlton Heston’s commandment to Washington voters.
The movie star spokesman for the National Rifle Association was in Spokane on Friday to rally opposition to the gun control measure scheduled for the November ballot.
Heston, who portrayed Moses in “The Ten Commandments,” called the initiative “evil” and “devilish” during a brief appearance at the Opera House.
Nearly 1,500 people attended the rally, sponsored by Washington Citizens Against Regulatory Excess (WeCARE).
Mothers toting young children and signs declaring “Moms Against 676” mingled with men wearing camouflage pants and blaze-orange hats. Grandmothers in print dresses shared stories with businessmen in dark suits.
Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan was there and got his picture taken with Heston, recently elected first vice president of the NRA.
They all gave the actor a standing ovation as he strode to the stage to make his remarks. He wasn’t kind.
“I wonder if they shouldn’t have called it 666,” said Heston, making reference to the number that marks the Antichrist in the Bible’s book of Revelation. “It’s attractive on the surface, but it’s evil.”
The initiative would require residents who own handguns to pass a safety test in order to obtain a state license. It also would require trigger locks for all pistols sold or given away.
People who aren’t licensed couldn’t legally own a handgun, and authorities could seize the weapons. Violating other provisions of the law would be a crime.
The state Department of Licensing would administer the tests and keep a database containing the names of an estimated 1 million handgun owners.
Proponents of the measure say it saves children’s lives, making homes with handguns safer.
Heston called it costly, unnecessary legislation that would do nothing to help kids. He said trigger locks sometimes fail, and he doubted the state could come up with a safety course that was better than common sense or the NRA’s Eddie the Eagle training program.
“The best safety device is the human brain,” he said. “676 is not just evil, it’s stupid.”
His comments drew hardy applause and shouts of encouragement from the crowd.
They also drew ridicule from west of the Cascades, where supporters of the initiative have their headquarters.
Karen Besserman called Heston’s comments “extremist NRA rhetoric.” She is the campaign manager for Washington Citizens for Handgun Safety, which is sponsoring the initiative.
“He was a fine actor. He made some really good movies, but movies aren’t reality,” Besserman said. “All we’re trying to do is make kids safer. I don’t think that’s evil.”
Jean Gardner, a Citizens for Handgun Safety founder, agreed.
“We may not have parted the Red Sea or carried the tablets down from Mount Sinai, but we know Initiative 676 is the right thing,” said Gardner, who is married to former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: For a summary and the full text of Initiative 676, log on to The Spokesman-Review’s Web site, Virtually Northwest, at www.virtuallynw.com, and click on “Election Central.”