In Pocatello, NRA president says he aims to double gun lobby membership

FILE - In this May 4, 2018 photo, former U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North speaks before giving the Invocation at the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Dallas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North announced Friday that his top goal as the next president of the National Rifle Association is to double the membership of the powerful gun lobby that currently stands around six million.

“I’m going to break some news tonight. My goal as president of the NRA is very simple, all I want to do is double the membership,” North said in Pocatello, Idaho, while speaking at the state’s Republican Party convention.

The 74-year-old North defended his organization’s work during his 20-minute speech, calling it the nation’s largest “civil rights organization.”

His speech included video testimonials of NRA members sharing why gun rights are important to protect and encouraging the public to visit the organization’s “NRA TV” website rather than using traditional news sources.

Idaho’s race for the open governor’s seat also took center stage during North’s speech, when he promised to throw his group’s support behind Lt. Gov. Brad Little — the Republican gubernatorial nominee — who is running against former Democratic Rep. Paulette Jordan.

“You’ll find that our citizens, our communities, our legislators and yes, our governors are big Second Amendment supporters,” Little said in his opening remarks on Friday.

Jordan, 38, who is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, has gained national attention surrounding her winning the Democratic nomination in the May primary. She is Idaho’s first female nominee of a major political party and has said she favors some gun control measures like restricting bump stocks.

“She cashed a check from the Soros family. She proudly took a photo with Al Gore. She was endorsed by Cher.” North said. “Paulette Jordan sounds perfect for office … in San Francisco.”

Several hours to the west, Democratic delegates gathered in Caldwell for their own convention where the keynote speaker commented on North’s appearance.

“They brought in Ollie North,” said Jason Kander, founder of Let America Vote. “That dude was lying to Congress when I was lying to my first-grade teacher about doing my homework. They’re trying to go back in time.”

Idaho hasn’t elected a Democratic governor for nearly 30 years.

“I don’t like to lose, and by God I’m not going to be the chairman to lose the governorship and any other statewide seat,” said Idaho GOP Chairman Jonathan Parker.

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

GOP officials on Friday noted that Heston spoke at the Idaho GOP convention 20 years ago when he was also first selected as the gun lobby’s president.

North was a military aide to the National Security Council during the Reagan administration in the 1980s when he drew 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 Congress during its investigation, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. Those convictions were overturned in 1991.

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