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Blacklist badge of honour

Los Angeles, Oct. 29 (Reuters): Most blacklists are designed to intimidate. But thousands of Americans are clamouring to join one drawn up by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Actor Dustin Hoffman was so dismayed to find his name missing from the NRA’s shadowy 19-page list of US companies, celebrities, and news organisations seen as lending support to anti-gun policies that he wrote to the powerful pro-gun lobby group begging to be included.

“As a supporter of comprehensive anti-gun safety measures, I was deeply disappointed when I discovered my name was not on the list,” Hoffman wrote in a letter to the NRA that was released yesterday. “I was particularly surprised by the omission given my opposition to the loophole that makes it legal for 18- to 20-year-olds to buy handguns at gun shows,” he added.

Hoffman’s name has now been added to the list which reads like a Who’s Who of American business, culture and religion and which ranges from the American Jewish Congress to A&M Records, ABC News and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.

An NRA spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

The list was found deep in the official NRA website by a group of grass-roots anti-gun campaigners and publicised by them two weeks ago to garner support for two pieces of gun control legislation going through Congress. The campaigners set up their own website (http://www.NRAblacklist.com) and urged Americans to voluntarily put their names there.

A full-page ad yesterday in Daily Variety — the Hollywood trade magazine — urged movie and music artists to sign up.

“What the site tries to do is turn it into a badge of honour to get on the blacklist by saying that ‘Hey Julia Roberts is on the blacklist. Why don’t you join it'’ It’s been incredibly successful. Since we have launched, 25,000 people have signed on, asking to be put on the NRA blacklist,” said Wendy Katz, spokesperson for the group.

The NRA initially denied compiling a blacklist as such, saying it was merely responding to members wanting to know which individuals and corporations opposed the US Constitution’s Second Amendment on the right to bear arms.

But National Rifle Association executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre said of the list last week, “Our members don’t want to buy their songs, don’t want to go to their movies, don’t want to support their careers.”

Katz said the campaigners hoped to spur opposition to a bill that would grant immunity in civil cases for gun manufacturers and dealers, and gather support for renewal of a 1994 ban on the sale of military assault weapons.

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