Retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North is set to become president of the NRA in the next few weeks, taking over from Pete Brownell.
North, a long time Second Amendment advocate and member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, was reportedly asked by CEO Wayne LaPierre to take over the position vacated by Brownell who is coming to the end of his first one-year term.
“This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became President of our Association,” LaPierre said. “Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator, and skilled leader. In these times, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our President.”
North said in a statement he is “eager to hit the ground running” in a few weeks once he puts his affairs in order, which include leaving Fox News. Until then Second Vice President Carolyn Meadows will serve as the NRA’s interim president.
North, a Silver Star recipient and combat veteran, became a household name during the so-called Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s for his role with others in the U.S. intelligence community in setting up a network to finance the Contras, a Nicaraguan rebel group fighting a Moscow-backed regime, after Congress had barred such assistance, and of using the proceeds from secret third-party arms sales to Iran to help fund the effort. However, it should be noted that North went on to be vindicated in the courts. In 1990, a federal appeals court suspended North’s convictions and all charges were later dropped by a federal judge the following year.
Since then, the retired officer and former National Security Council staff member has become a best-selling author, speaker, commentator and host. However, media and gun control advocates were quick to recall the past Iran-Contra connection with Slate headlining the news of North’s pick as “Notorious Arms Trafficker Named President of NRA,” while the Brady Campaign went further.
“Perhaps the NRA is feeling the pressure from the past few months to change their leadership – but it’s downright baffling that they’d choose to install a walking lightning rod at the top of the organization,” said Kris Brown, Brady’s co-president. “Oliver North’s very name is synonymous with corruption and disgrace.”
While he has no fans among the Brady leadership, North is well liked inside the NRA. Since his election to the body’s 76-seat board, North has been extremely popular with the group’s voting members, drawing the most ballots out of all of the candidates the most recent year he ran.
North has often made campaign ads for the organization and has addressed the Second Amendment’s members directly, speaking at the group’s 2011, 2012, and 2014 annual meetings, among others.