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For third year, Heston to lead NRA

Charlton Heston was unanimously re-elected Monday to an unprecedented third term as president of the National Rifle Association and predicted membership will soar to 4-million by Election Day because "President Clinton's point of view on firearms has united a lot of people."

Heston's re-election was the last big item of business at the NRA's 129th annual convention.

"I'm amazed. I must be doing something right," the 75-year-old Ten Commandments star said after the voice vote by fellow board members.

And Heston hinted that he might run again next year for a fourth term as president of the nation's largest gun group.

The NRA amended its bylaws to allow Heston, first elected in 1998, to run again. Traditionally, NRA officers are elected to one-year terms and may serve only two consecutive terms.

Heston said that he backs Republican candidate George W. Bush and that his top priority is to "defeat Al Gore."

"I intend to dedicate my remaining time as president of the NRA to ensure that the Second Amendment is safe from Al Gore and all those who threaten it," he said after his re-election by the 76-member board. Also re-elected was NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, the organization's highest-ranking paid officer.

Heston said he was heartened by the record turnout of more than 52,000 people for the convention, which opened Friday. The previous record was 41,000 two years ago in Philadelphia.

NRA statistics also show that membership mushroomed by 200,000 to more than 3.6-million in the past six weeks. Heston predicted an additional 400,000 members by November.

"I think President Clinton's point of view on firearms has united a lot of people," Heston said.