Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North is no stranger to being in the hot seat. Monday’s announcement by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that he has been named the organization’s latest president likely means he will be again. The NRA has come under ever increasing scrutiny from the anti-gun lobby in the U.S. in recent months. Momentum for gun control has been building since the mass shooting in Las Vegas last fall that killed 58 people and the Feb. 14 rampage at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead.
The infamous and outspoken Marine at the center of the Iran-Contra affair three decades ago, can lend a sort of star power and gravitas to the NRA as it faces a powerful backlash over the massacres in Florida and Las Vegas.
North, 74, will be the biggest celebrity to lead the 5-million-member gun lobby since Hollywood leading man Charlton Heston, who famously declared in 2000 that his guns would have to be taken “from my cold, dead hands.”
“Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said.
North was chosen by the NRA’s board of directors, which elects a president every two years. He is expected to take office within the next several weeks, succeeding Pete Brownell, who decided not to seek a second term.
LaPierre remains as vice president and chief executive, a sort of XO to run the day-to-day operations. North is expected to take a more visible role, like that of Heston, brandishing not firearms, but fiery speeches and rhetoric to rally support and energize members.
North came to international notoriety as a military aide to the National Security Council during the Reagan administration. He found his way into the spotlight for his role in arranging the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran and the secret diversion of the proceeds to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua. He would go on to be convicted in 1989 of obstructing Congress during its investigation, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity, however those convictions were overturned in 1991.
On his experience with those hearings, North said “I never considered myself the fall guy. I know what I did. I know why I did it. I am not ashamed of it. I would have promised those terrorists a trip to Disneyland if it would have gotten the hostages released. I thank God they were satisfied with the missiles and we didn’t have to go to that extreme.”
Life after Iran Contra has been good to North — he ran for public office, wrote several books, hit the speaking circuit and served as a commentator and host on Fox News.
In a statement, North said he was honored to be selected and “eager to hit the ground running.”
North’s appointment was cheered by gun-rights supporters who consider him a patriot that can pose a strong counterpoint and bulwark against efforts to restrict access to firearms.
Gun control advocate groups are far less impressed with the choice. Avery Gardiner, co-president for the Brady Campaign remarked that “For an organization so concerned with law and order, picking a new leader who admitted that he lied to Congress is a truly remarkable decision.” Gardiner also pointed out that the NRA “will be led by a man whose own concealed carry permit was revoked because he was ‘not of good character.”
If the timing for taking on a Charlton Heston like attitude seems vaguely familiar, that’s because it is. It was in a very similar era — a hotly contested election year following the high-profile mass shooting at Columbine high school — that Heston infamously held up a flintlock and defiantly said “From my cold, dead hands!”
There is something vaguely poetic about a Marine who became infamous for running guns—now running the largest gun lobby in the world. Many supporters feel the NRA is in very capable hands.
SOFREP Radio had LtCol Oliver North on as a guest back in 2014 with Jack Murphy and Ian Scotto. They talked in depth about radical Islamic terrorism and more – check out the complete interview here.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Associated Press