From my cold, dead hands
"I'll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands" is a slogan popularized by the National Rifle Association (NRA) on a series of bumper stickers. It is a variation of a slogan mentioned in a 1976 report from the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency: "I Will Give Up My Gun When They Peel My Cold Dead Fingers From Around It." The original version did not originate with the NRA, but with another gun rights group, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, based in Bellevue, Washington. It, along with "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns", is a slogan that is often used by gun owners and their supporters in discussions of gun control in the United States.
Use by Charlton Heston
The phrase gained newfound popularity following the 129th NRA convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 20, 2000, when the actor, and president at the time of the NRA, Charlton Heston ended a speech by concluding:
For the next six months, [Democratic presidential candidate and then-Vice President of the United States, Al Gore] is going to smear you as the enemy. He will slander you as gun-toting, knuckle-dragging, bloodthirsty maniacs who stand in the way of a safer America. Will you remain silent? I will not remain silent. If we are going to stop this, then it is vital to every law-abiding gun owner in America to register to vote and show up at the polls on Election Day.
So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: 'From my cold, dead hands!'
Heston repeated the phrase at the end of each NRA convention over which he presided as president. When he announced his retirement in 2003, he concluded by repeating "From my cold, dead hands."
In the 1984 film Red Dawn, Communist paratroopers invade middle America. A bumper sticker with the statement on it is shown, and then the camera pans to an M1911A1 pistol clutched in its dead owner's hand. One of the paratroopers literally takes the gun from his dead hands, shoves it in his own belt, and then leaves.
In the 1997 film Men in Black, Edgar, an upstate New York farmer, tells a recently-landed alien when asked to drop his rifle, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." The alien responds, "Your proposal is acceptable." Edgar is then killed, and the alien uses his skin as a disguise.
In 2005, the phrase was parodied by The Onion in their "300th Anniversary" issue dated June 22, 2056. A small item on the page claimed: "Grave robbers pry valuable rifle from Charlton Heston's cold, dead hands". Later in 2008, shortly after Charlton Heston's death, The Onion again parodied the phrase in a photo caption.
- Molon labe, a similar classical phrase
- "Come and take it", a slogan used in 1835 during the Texas Revolution
- They shall not pass
- Not a step back
- Charlton Heston death announcement - New York Times, April 6, 2008
- Excerpt from Mary Mackey's McCarthy's List (1979)
- Excerpt from 1976 report from Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency - p. 2221
- Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms web site
- N.R.A. leaders cast Gore as archenemy - New York Times article, May 20, 2000
- YouTube Video "Charlton Heston; From My Cold Dead Hands. Long Version"
- "Heston to Step down as NRA President", The Nation, April 25, 2003.
- The Onion 2056 - Popular monocultures box (wait for the text to cycle round)
- The Onion - News in photos