Weeks after film star and National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston died, authorities were finally able to separate him from his gun. Mr. Heston had apparently been sleeping with the 1873 Winchester Rifle, sometimes claiming he was “going home” with the gun. Unfortunately and ironically, Heston cannot be buried with the gun because of state laws, and because he had promised the gun to the NRA to be auctioned off.
In an interview with Real Wisconsin News, NRA President John C. Sigler said that he felt terrible that they had to exhume the body and pry the gun from Heston’s hands, but since the law had forbade the burial and an eBay auction would likely pay his salary for the year, the only choice was to “retrieve the gun for the rights of all mankind.” California had initially allowed the burial to take place, with authorities assuming the rifle was a replica used to signify Heston’s allegiance to the NRA, not a loaded, fully-functioning rifle that nobody could pry away from the Hollywood star.
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said that people can be buried with pretty much whatever they please, but when it’s a loaded gun, the standard grave robberies that happen to all of the stars’ bodies takes on a more sinister note. “Each Hollywood legend gets dug back up at least once—you know, some deranged fan or grave-robber, hoping the celebrity’s family didn’t take every last jewelry item to the local pawn shop. However, it’s against the California state penal code to leave a loaded weapon right where kids could get at it, and people often use the kids to go down in the holes they dig to the caskets. And let me tell you, some of the things people do to those celebrities makes me glad I’m a lawyer and not a star, and that says a lot coming from a lawyer.”
One detail that complicated the retrieval of the gun was the fact that Heston had been buried in his gun safe, and instead of the normal pry-open-wearing-a-mask scenario, the Beverly Hills SWAT Team had to be called in to set C4 explosives on the safe. “It was a top-of-the-line model,” said Brown. “Actually, had we known exactly what Mr. Heston was buried in, we may not have attempted the exhumation, but no one at the funeral really thought the casket was a real gun safe, either.”
The gun was finally retrieved, as was most of Mr. Heston. The state of California poured concrete over the safe in order to ensure the privacy Heston desired was still intact, and the gun was unloaded and given to the NRA. “Actually, the C4 did a pretty good job of severing one hand from the gun,” said Brown, “but we did have to pry it out of the other hand. I gained a lot of respect for Charlton Heston today.”