From my cold, dead hands

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"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.[1][2] 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."[3] 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.[4] 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 criticisms of proposals of gun control in the United States.

Use by Charlton Heston[edit]

The phrase gained newfound popularity following the 129th NRA convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 20, 2000, when actor and then-president 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.

Heston then paused to pick up a replica of a flintlock long rifle and continued:[5]

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!'[6]

— Charlton Heston, May 20, 2000

Heston repeated the phrase at the end of each NRA convention over which he presided. When he announced his retirement in 2003, he concluded by repeating "From my cold, dead hands."[7]

Use in American politics[edit]

The phrase has been used by numerous pro-gun rights groups including The National Rifle Association, National Association for Gun Rights. The term also lends itself to the Second Amendment for-profit corporation Cold Dead Hands.

Media appearances[edit]

In the 1984 film Red Dawn, Communist paratroopers invade middle United States. 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 who mistreats his wife, tells a recently landed evil alien when asked to drop his shotgun, "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.

The phrase is used to introduce Heston (and thence his NRA experience) to viewers of Michael Moore's 2002 documentary film Bowling for Columbine.

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".[8] Later in 2008, shortly after Charlton Heston's death, The Onion again parodied the phrase in a photo caption.[9]

The 2012 update Mann vs Machine for the video game Team Fortress 2 contains a parody of the phrase as one of the Soldier character responses: "You can have this when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. And even then, good luck! Because I will have glued it to my cold, dead hands!"[10]

In 2013, Jim Carrey with The Eels created a single and accompanying music video "Cold Dead Hand", ridiculing gun culture in the United States and specifically Charlton Heston, declaring that he could not enter Heaven as even angels could not pry the gun from his hands.[11][12]

Anthony Jeselnik, on his 2013 TV show, The Jeselnik Offensive, said, "They can have my gun when they pry it from my curious six-year-old's cold dead hands."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berkvist, Robert (April 6, 2008). "Charlton Heston, Epic Film Star and Voice of N.R.A., Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  2. ^ Excerpt from Mary Mackey's McCarthy's List (1979)
  3. ^ Excerpt from 1976 report from Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency - p. 2221
  4. ^ "The Common Sense Gun Lobby Citizens Committee For The Right To Keep And Bear Arms". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  5. ^ Dao, James (May 20, 2000). "N.R.A. leaders cast Gore as archenemy". The New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2022.
  6. ^ Charlton Heston; From My Cold Dead Hands. Long Version. YouTube. 26 April 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Heston to Step down as NRA President" Archived 2008-04-11 at the Wayback Machine, The Nation, April 25, 2003.
  8. ^ The Onion 2056 Archived 2009-11-07 at the Wayback Machine - Popular monocultures box (wait for the text to cycle round)
  9. ^ "Charlton Heston's Gun Taken From His Cold, Dead Hands". Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  10. ^ Soldier responses - Official TF2 Wiki
  11. ^ "Video: Jim Carrey, Eels Team for Gun Culture Parody". Rolling Stone. 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2013-03-30.
  12. ^ "Jim Carrey releases 'Cold Dead Hand' music video mocking gun rights advocates like Charlton Heston". NY Daily News. New York. 2013-03-25. Retrieved 2013-03-30.