Wed, May 09, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Oliver North named NRA leader

NEXT HESTON?Observers believe the famous marine who played a key role in the Iran-Contra scandal is to take a public role like Charlton Heston did 20 years ago

AP, ATLANTA, Georgia

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s appointment as the next president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) gives some star power to the gun lobby, but also inspires disdain by gun-control advocates who call it a tone-deaf move that shows an unwillingness to find solutions to gun violence.

North, 74, the marine at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and a darling of the right, is to be the biggest celebrity to lead the 5-million-member gun lobby since Hollywood leading man Charlton Heston.

“Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said.

Momentum for gun control has been building since the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year that killed 58 people and the Feb. 14 rampage at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead.

North was picked on Monday by the organization’s board of directors, which elects a president every two years. He is expected to assume office within the next several weeks.

LaPierre remains as vice president and chief executive, running the powerful group’s day-to-day operations. North would lead the board, and NRA observers say they anticipate he is to take on a more public role in the style of Heston, a fiery presence who used his acting background to energize members.

North was a military aide to the US National Security Council during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, when he emerged into the spotlight for his role in arranging the secret sale of weapons to Iran and the diversion of the proceeds to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

He was convicted in 1989 of obstructing the US Congress during its investigation, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. Those convictions were overturned in 1991.

In a statement, North said he was honored to be selected and “eager to hit the ground running.”

“The election of Oliver North is the clearest sign yet that the NRA is floundering in the face of plummeting popularity, scrutiny into its Russia ties and state lawmakers who are defying the gun lobby left and right,” Everytown for Gun Safety president John Feinblatt said. “The NRA doesn’t need a new leader — it needs an entirely new direction.”

“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,” Brady Campaign copresident Avery Gardiner said.

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