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Remarks By Charlton Heston

Monday, January 25, 1999

NRA joins Mayor Rendell, Senators Specter and Santorum, in launching "Project Exile" to fully enforce existing federal gun laws and remove armed felons from Philadelphia streets (PHILADELPHIA, PA) -- Charlton Heston, legendary actor and President of the National Rifle Association, lowered his voice in that familiar baritone and dared criminals to "make my day." Heston, along with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and James J. Baker, Executive Director of NRA`s Institute for Legislative Action, stood with Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum in launching Project Exile, an aggressive effort to fully enforce existing federal gun laws to remove violent armed felons from Philadelphia`s streets. And the NRA officials brought more than lip service to the city -- they brought NRA`s checkbook and the full support of one of the nation`s toughest lobby groups. "If you`re a felon out on the streets of Philadelphia today, I dare you to carry a gun," Heston warned. "Because if you do, you will go to prison. No plea bargain, no discussion. Just a cold, hard federal prison cell. So go ahead -- carry a gun on these streets. To quote my good friend Clint Eastwood, `Make My Day`." Today`s launch of the program is the culmination of talks that began between Mayor Rendell and the NRA last June, when NRA was in Philadelphia for its annual convention. When Heston was elected NRA President on June 8, he challenged the White House to "give us one major city" to implement Project Exile, which utilizes existing federal gun laws to imprison armed felons. Mayor Rendell accepted the challenge and offered Philadelphia for the effort. "When I was here last June, I talked to a lot of your police officers," Heston explained. "And they all told me that their greatest frustration was that when they arrested criminals carrying guns, those felons were usually back on the streets by the time the arresting officer got home for dinner. I promised those officers that NRA would do something about it and, by God, we`re here with Mayor Rendell to deliver on that promise." Then Heston explained that the effort really began more than a decade ago. "For more than a decade, Wayne LaPierre has been urging, pleading, and yes, even begging, the federal government to fully enforce existing laws and prosecute armed criminals without delay, discussion or plea bargain," Heston said. "And they finally started doing that in Richmond and now, with this great effort in Philadelphia. And as it spreads, let no man mistake. It started with one single, lone voice in the wilderness -- the voice of Wayne LaPierre." Project Exile was implemented in Richmond, Virginia two years ago, where a group of federal prosecutors initiated a community-wide effort to force federal prosecutions of armed violent felons. Many of these federal felony possession laws have been on the books for more than thirty years, yet are rarely enforced. After just one year, the gun murder rate in Richmond declined by 65 percent and robberies decreased by one third. Yet the Richmond effort has received no support from the White House or Justice Department. "I promise you," Heston told Mayor Rendell, "If you and your prosecutors stick to the simple, proven model of Richmond, the murder rate in Philadelphia will decline and your citizens will be safer. I`m not speaking as Moses spoke about leading an exodus of his people to the Promised Land. I`m talking about leading armed criminals to a Promised Prison." Wayne LaPierre, NRA`s Executive Vice President, noted Senator Arlen Specter`s work in securing an appropriation last fall of $1.5 million to implement Project Exile in Philadelphia. "Thanks to the hard work of Senator Specter, and the full support of Senator Santorum, the hard reality for armed criminals in this city will be a hard prison block. And Mr. Mayor," LaPierre said to Mayor Rendell, "you took our challenge last June to heart. And we`re here today to roll up our sleeves with you, with your police officers and with your prosecutors to get the job done, because every police officer on the street and every citizen knows if you don`t enforce the law, the law means nothing." During the news conference at Philadelphia City Hall, NRA`s James J. Baker delivered a check for $25,000 to help the city promote the program, a key element to success of the effort. "By getting the word out on the streets that if you`re a violent, repeat felon with a gun in Philadelphia, you will go to jail -- and by backing that up with tough, unflinching prosecutions -- Philadelphia will join Richmond in proving that full enforcement of our existing laws reduces violent crime," Baker said. "And NRA will continue to work with Senators Specter and Santorum in pushing Project Exile in the United States Congress, to implement the program in cities across the country." "Now if only we could get the President behind this," Heston said.

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