FLASHBACK – Charlton Heston: TR Hunted 'With a Semi-Automatic Rifle’

By Michael W. Chapman | January 17, 2013 | 4:39 PM EST

Charlton Heston, legendary actor and former president of the National Rifle Association. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Charlton Heston, an award-winning actor and former president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), who died in 2008, vigorously defended the 2nd Amendment on NBC’s Meet the Press in a 1997 interview, during which he informed host Tim Russert that even former President Theodore Roosevelt hunted “with a semi-automatic rifle.”

“Teddy Roosevelt hunted, in the last century, with a semi-automatic rifle,” said Heston. “Most deer rifles are semi-automatic.”

Heston then went on to explain how the federal government, since the late 1930s, had imposed very strict rules on the private ownership of fully automatic weapons and said there had been “no legally owned fully automatic weapon that has been involved in any crime in America.”

Fully automatic means that when you pull the trigger and hold it, the bullets keep firing. You don’t have to pull the trigger each time for each bullet – it is fully automatic; the bullets will spew out until the magazine is empty.

A semi-automatic firearm is one where you have to pull the trigger each time – 1,2,3,4, etc. – for each bullet from the magazine to fire. If you pull the trigger and hold it, only one bullet exits – it is semi-automatic. If the magazine holds 10 bullets, you have to pull the trigger 10 times to empty the magazine.

A handgun can be semi-automatic and so can a rifle. With either weapon, handgun or rifle, you have to pull the trigger each time for the bullet to exit the chamber.  (There are also guns that are single action or double action, like the revolvers you see in the cowboy movies. With a single action revolver, you have to “cock” the gun, pull the hammer back every time you want to fire a bullet. With a double-action revolver, you can pull the trigger each time and it draws the hammer back each time.)

As Heston commented on the government’s restrictions on fully automatic guns, Russert said,  “The Supreme Court also upheld a ban on sawed-off shotguns.  Why couldn’t the Supreme Court uphold a ban on semi-automatic weapons?  Why would you use them, for any reason?”

Heston said, “A semi-automatic weapon? Then no one could hunt deer.  Semi-automatic weapons are all kinds  of – semi-automatic pistols . It’s become a demonized phrase, and it’s much mixed in with fully automatic .”

Russert, apparently unclear on the meaning of fully automatic vs. semi-automatic, then said, “So the ban on assault weapons, passed by Congress last year, you continue to oppose?”

Heston said, “Not on fully automatics. You see, the media distorts that and the general public ill understands it.”

Charlton Heston was NRA president from 1998 to 2003, at which time he resigned for health reasons. He died on Apr. 5, 2008. He had starred in such popular films as The Ten Commandments,  Touch of Evil, Planet of the Apes, and Ben-Hur, for which he won the best actor Academy Award.

Tim Russert (1950-2008) was a long-time journalist and the  moderator of NBC's Meet the Press until his death on June 13, 2008 of a heart attack. He was 58 years old.

Russert's interview of Heston was broadcast on the May 18, 1997 edition of Meet the Press.

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman