NEVER HAS ANYONE SO LITTLE DEFAMED SO MANY by Perry Mann He who lives by the gun dies by the gun. And he dies spiritually long before he dies physically; for worship of power and self above all else is living death.


Oxford University students invited Charlton Heston to speak to them, an invitation inspired without doubt by the students’ desire to hear the views from not only the great but from less acclaimed personages, perhaps, even from querulous pipsqueaks. The Moses of the movies allowed as how the Brits’ gun laws reflect “cultural cowardice and a subtle form of surrender to the criminals.” Not satisfied with words of impudence so egregious that God no doubt considered having him taken to the Divine’s woodshed so that Satan could belt his backside, he added that he would be “safer stepping off the plane in Los Angeles … than walking the streets of London,” notwithstanding that the murder rate among young men in America is 52 times higher than in Britain, a statistic probably ignored by Heston since his youth is long gone. Which loss has driven him to other means of employment, all of which require pandering to minds on a level with his.

Has anyone so little ever defamed so many of so great a people? I remember the summer of 1940, after France fell when Britain stood alone between the Nazis and the conquest of all of Europe and with a chance to conquer the rest of the West. I remember Churchill telling his people and warning his enemy after the debacle of Dunkirk that they would fight on the beaches, in the streets and in the hills and that they would never surrender. I remember during the terrible onslaught upon English cities by the Luftwaffe and amid all the destruction and firestorms, the parents of Britain talking to their children who had been brought to the New World for safe keeping until the Fascist threat to their lives and future had ended. And I remember Churchill’s immortal dedication and epitaph to the brave youth of the RAF who had won the Battle of Britain: “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few.”

And in that context, I read of this Hollywood Moses, who parted the seas in a meretricious melodrama, and whose current daytime employment is a hawker of guns and a pitchman for the NRA, a company of rabbit hunters born again into a bellicose militia, and whose nighttime employment is selling Bibles and praising Jesus, a prophet who would have found the culture that produced Heston a horror of hedonism and the NRA a herd of strayed sheep; and I am somewhat stunned at the brass and impudicity of the man. But upon reflection not at all surprised, considering the arrogant posture and polemics of the gun merchants and their clientele.

Guns are genetic. Guns’ predecessors were fists, stones, clubs, spears, swords and bows and arrows. Man’s history is guns and their lethal predecessors, culminating in nuclear bombs. Even as I write 350,000 hunters with sophisticated equipment, powerful guns with scopes, ATVs, tree stands and army camouflage have invaded the woods waiting for a kill with a patience only the prospect of a sexual conquest equals.

There is nothing rational about this invasion. It is as much a genetic imperative as the territorial one. A hunter’s moment is when the game is within range and view is a quaking emotion akin to an imminent embrace at a forbidden tryst. Hunters are puppets of prehistoric times and their guns are concomitant baggage. Just as prehistoric man would never enter the woods without a weapon, so it is with modern man, many of whom have evolved so minimally that they cannot even walk the streets of a relative safe city or a countryside without the comfort of a concealed piece.

The gun advocates stress that the Second Amendment guarantees their right to bear arms and that to amend or restrict that right is to take from them their individualism and freedom. How free can a man be who so worships instruments of death that he is willing to die for the right to have one on his person or in his home or everywhere he is? Guns are an addiction that have enslaved him, not instruments the having of which free him. Christ’s admonition is to the point: He who lives by the gun dies by the gun. And he dies spiritually long before he dies physically; for worship of power and self above all else is living death.

Heston’s view is that a nation that disarms itself is a nation of cowards, the reverse of which view is that a nation that carries concealed weapons is a nation of the brave. Imagine the spiritual hero of the Western world, the wimp that told Peter to sheath his sword when his arrest was imminent, preaching on the Mount or telling his disciples to allow the little children to come unto him while armed with holstered pistols on hip, striking a posture in the manner of John Wayne or other actors that face phony Hollywood danger with studied indifference. Heston who sells guns in the day and Bibles at night is too obtuse or too commercial or both to be constrained by the inconsistency.

Heston and his kind cannot help themselves; for they, along with all of us, are victims or beneficiaries of their nature and nurture. It is clear that Mike Tyson and Nelson Mandela are at the opposite extremes of a moral spectrum. Everyone is within a moral spectrum that runs from sociopath to saint. I dare to estimate that those who worship pistols and cannot feel whole or manly without one are less courageous than those who show loyalty to the social contract to which all are signatories by virtue of their citizenship and who have faith in those citizens whose contractual obligations are the maintenance of the safety, peace and tranquility of the republic. Those who carry individualism to the extreme of furnishing a house as a fortress and arsenal are anarchists at heart and breach the covenants of citizenship thereby.

America stood isolationist while Britain was the only obstacle to a Europe with a fascist face from the Soviet Union to the Atlantic shores. And for a man who has minimal moral and intellectual credentials, to preach to the British people, who probably saved his right to speak freely his nonsense, that they have created a culture of cowardice because they have restricted the freedom of their citizens to walk the streets of their cities armed, reflects a feudalistic mind that measures a civilization not by its literary, governmental, and political contributions but by the number of guns per household. Pity the nation that gives status to such an emissary.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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