Oliver North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, has been named the next president of the National Rifle Association, the group announced Monday.
“This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became president of our association,” NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre said in a statement, referencing the Second Amendment activist and actor, who famously said his guns could only be taken from his “cold, dead hands.”
“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 served as a National Security Council staff member under President Ronald Reagan and was investigated for his participation in the illegal sale of weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon. North was convicted on multiple charges but the convictions were later reversed on appeal, and all charges were dismissed in 1991.
The decision comes amid heightened national scrutiny of the gun industry and a widespread push for significant gun-control reforms in the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. that claimed 17 lives on Valentine’s Day.
The NRA has come under fire in recent months for opposing what critics view as reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, including raising the minimum purchase age to 21 and banning the sale of assault-style weapons similar to the one used in the Parkland massacre.
In response to the public backlash, financial institutions and other corporations have increasingly spurned the gun industry —implementing restrictions on gun retailers and manufacturers and creating investment products that specifically exclude those businesses.