Disgraced former Marine to head gun lobby

The National Rifle Association said disgraced former U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North will be the next president of the organization.

North was a central figure in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, an illegal plot to funnel money to anti-government terrorists in Nicaragua — as part of a war that was already being funded by the small country’s cocaine trade — during Republican President Ronald Reagan’s second term.

The political scandal revealed that senior administration officials secretly arranged the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo, to obtain funds for the Contra rebels. 

Under the Boland Amendment, funding of the Contras by the United States government had been prohibited by Congress.

At the same time, North and other Reagan aides violated the longstanding policy prohibiting the United States from negotiating for the release of hostages. 

The NRA selected North, 74, who is on the NRA’s board of directors, following an annual meeting in Dallas, where President Donald Trump promised not to tighten U.S. firearms laws.

Trump previously vowed he would take on the powerful gun lobby in the wake of February massacre of 17 teens and educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people.

No major new federal gun controls have been imposed, although the Trump administration is pursuing a proposed regulatory ban on “bump stocks,” which enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire a steady stream of bullets.

North was a White House National Security Council aide who set up a pipeline to deliver forbidden military weapons to the rebels who was convicted of three felonies in 1989. Those convictions were overturned on appeal in 1990.

After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Reagan fired North and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages.

The investigation was impeded because documents were destroyed by White House officials but on March 4, 1987, Reagan appeared on national television, taking full responsibility, and saying that “what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages”.

North, who is considered a hero among right-wing political extremists, lost as a 1994 Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia after former first lady Nancy Reagan declared that he had a “great deal of trouble separating fact from fantasy” and “lied to my husband and lied about my husband.”

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