NRA President steps down as turmoil sweeps powerful US gun lobby

World Today

Turmoil at one of America’s most powerful lobbying groups, the National Rifle Association, with its president forced to step down, amid accusations of conflicts of interest, extortion and financial impropriety. CGTN’s Toby Muse reports.

Oliver North, the head of the NRA, announced Saturday he would not run for reelection.

In a letter read out on his behalf at the organization’s annual convention, North said, “Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president endorsed for reelection. I’m now informed that will not happen.”

North is accused of threatening to release damaging information on rivals within the NRA, as well as unethical dealings with an outside advertising agency.

The NRA was founded nearly 150 years ago as a firearms training organization but has morphed into an influential gun rights group that rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars. Its stated aim is to protect the rights of gun-owners, but it has become a pillar of right-wing politics.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to the gun rights activists and said gun owners make communities safer and the nation stronger. “Far-left radicals in Congress want to take away your voice, your jobs, your rights, and they especially want to take away your guns. You know that. They want to take away your guns. You better get out there and vote.”

The NRA has been on the defensive as more Americans fight for gun control following school massacres, like the one in Parkland, Florida last year that killed 14 students.

North is perhaps best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, when he oversaw secret arms sales to Iran in the 1980s, funneling the money back to cocaine-trafficking rebels in Nicaragua.

North is a powerful figure in conservative circles. If the turmoil within the organization spills beyond the NRA, it could weaken one of the stiffest opponents of gun control and right-wing politics heading into the 2020 presidential election.