The National Rifle Association has stood up for gun owners for years, but come under heavy criticism for opposing gun control after mass shootings from San Bernardino to Orlando. Some celebrity members of the group have stood by it, while others have distanced themselves from certain stances.
Arguably the most famous Hollywood star associated with the NRA was Charlton Heston, who served as its president from 1998 to 2003 before stepping down after an Alzheimers diagnosis. (He died in April 2008.)
Rock musician Ted Nugent is one of the NRA’s most outspoken members. In January 2015, on the organization’s radio show, he called NRA opponents “subhuman mongrels” and “some kind of inbred Martian.”
NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone is an avid hunter and has served on the NRA Board. But he angered some gun owners when he spoke to Sports Illustrated about those who buy guns for their protection: “The big picture is that guns won’t protect you. If someone really wanted to get you, they would.”
Actor Tom Selleck got into a heated debate with Rosie O’Donnell in 1999 when she questioned him about being a member of the NRA. In 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook school shootings, MSNBC pundit Lawrence O’Donnell said that it was time to “question Selleck’s humanity” after the actor’s silence on the matter.
In 2014, an online petition circulated demanding the Glastonbury music festival remove Metallica from the schedule because its frontman, James Hetfield, is an NRA member with a history of hunting. Hetfield narrated the History Channel series “The Hunt,” about a trek to Kodiak, Alaska, to kill brown bears. When it comes to gun control, however, Hetfield said in 2013: “I don’t want to make it easier for someone to have an assault weapon, but I also want to be able to protect my family.”
In 2012, Whoopi Goldberg revealed on “The View” that she is a member of the NRA during an interview with libertarian writer and TV pundit John Stossel. “I don’t mind having to register and let them know that I have them,” Goldberg said. “I want to know that there’s at least some way to prevent folks who are just getting out from mental institutions [from getting guns].”
James Earl Jones wrote about being a NRA member in his 1993 self-titled autobiography: “I just throw the political mail from the NRA into the trash … When it comes to the right-wing politics of the NRA, I don’t get into that. I just believe in my right to have a gun in my house.”
After the Sandy Hook school shootings in December 2012, West Coast Choppers founder Jesse James wrote a Facebook post supporting the NRA and objecting to gun control laws in some states. “People that should not have guns will still find a way to get them. Please join the NRA now,” he wrote.
Country singer Miranda Lambert is a lifetime NRA member and an outspoken gun rights advocate. At the 2016 American Country Music awards, she showed up on the red carpet sporting pink stilettos with a tiny gun and holster strapped to the front.
In a 2002 interview with The Guardian, director Michael Moore talked about how he got a NRA lifetime membership as part of a stunt for his documentary, “Bowling For Columbine.” He mentioned he had planned to run against Charlton Heston for the group’s presidency, but gave up on the plan. The NRA president is voted on by board members, rather than the entire organization.