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Heston taking aim to keep NRA from `irrelevance’

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The National Rifle Association will become politically isolated and irrelevant if leaders of the nation's oldest and largest gun rights group are ousted, actor Charlton Heston said Friday.

Heston said he was running for a seat on the NRA board to support "the good guys," embattled executive vice president Wayne R. LaPierre Jr. and his backers."There are forces within the NRA that threaten to reduce it to kind of a sideshow on the radical fringe of the American scene," Heston told reporters.

"I hear from gun owners, more and more, that they can't relate to the NRA. I hear from my friends on the Hill in Washington, in both houses of Congress, that the NRA is going to be overrun by people incompetent in the political process. I hear from my hunting and shooting friends that the NRA is approaching irrelevance," he said.

Heston never mentioned LaPierre's rival, first vice president Neal Knox, or said whether he would remain in the organization if LaPierre is ousted.

"My friends in the NRA have circled the wagons, and I guess I'm the cowboy riding over the ridge," he joked. "It's the right thing to do, it's the right time to do it, and frankly I think I can do it."

Heston is one of 158 candidates on this weekend's convention ballot for a lone seat on the NRA's 76-member board. The other 75 were elected earlier by mail.

The board chooses officers in a two-day meeting that begins Monday.

The power struggle involves allegations of financial mismanagement against the current leadership, as well as accusations that the organization has courted right-wing militias.

It is perhaps no wonder that there is dissension within the ranks. NRA membership has dropped 20 percent, to 2.8 million, in just two years. And assets have slumped from $80 million to $49 mil-lion.

In 1995, former President Bush turned in his NRA membership after a fund-raising letter signed by LaPierre referred to federal agents as "jack-booted government thugs."