The National Rifle Association’s choice of Oliver North as its president raises questions about the organization’s commitment to the rule of law when the NRA should be trying to uphold its status as a responsible issue advocacy organization.
Oliver North, by his own admission, lied to Congress, destroyed evidence, and violated a congressional ban on funding the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.
Hardly the record the NRA should want, if it desires to persuade voters, the Congress, and the President to adhere to its absolutist reading of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
As a lieutenant colonel of the Marines with a high ranking in the National Security Council, Mr. North helped set up a network to funnel money to the Contras, in direct violation of Congress’s Boland Amendment.
He created a shell organization to launder money through, the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty. He was convicted in 1989 of accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents.
The convictions were thrown out because the federal judge could not be sure that witnesses in his trial had not been influenced by the testimony he gave to Congress under a grant of immunity.
This is the behavior of someone who wants to head up an organization that champions respect for law and order?
Mr. North came close to winning a U.S. Senate race in Virginia during the 1994 election, but he was defeated only because Nancy Reagan called him out as a liar who threw President Reagan under the bus to protect himself.
Because of the intense controversy of its mission, the National Rifle Association naturally is militant, frothing at the mouth lately in its defense against all reasonable gun control efforts. But even Mr. North is a hotter commodity than the NRA needs in its top ranks.
Come on, he was illegally trading in weapons.
The NRA has an image of standing up for law and order. Though he had been a hero in the Vietnam War, Mr. North’s betrayal of his oath of office to honor the Constitution sullies that image.
Haters of the NRA will welcome any dilution of the NRA’s ability to mobilize its members to intimidate politicians. From that point of view, a weaker NRA means a stronger and more independent Congress, which would be a good thing.
Still, America needs to hear from political rights advocates of all stripes, especially when it comes to a right that is as constantly under attack as is the right to bear arms. To continue playing that role, the NRA needs a leadership that is above reproach. Oliver North is not.
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