The National Rifle Assn. has selected former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, key figure of the Iran-Contra scandal, as its next president.

Pete Brownell today announced his decision to not seek re-election as president to spend more time with his family and business.

Oliver North
Oliver North

photo: Gage Skidmore

North, a board member of the NRA, was the central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, which involved the diversion of proceeds earned from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran to Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua—illegal under the Boland Amendment.

President Ronald Reagan fired North, who was a National Security Council staffer, in 1986 after Iran-Contra become public.

North's riveting testimony during television Iran-Contra hearings of a joint Congressional committee in 1987 made him somewhat of a media star.

Indicted on 16 felony counts, North went on trial in 1988. He was convicted of three of them in 1989, fined $150K and sentenced to community work. His conviction was overturned in 1991. In 1994, North unsuccessfully ran for a Virginia Senate seat.

Wayne LaPierre, executive VP and CEO of the NRA, said the selection of North is the “most exciting news for NRA members since Charlton Heston become our president.”

North, 74, is stepping down from his contributor spot at Fox News immediately. The NRA board is expected to formally name North president in a few weeks.

Brownell said LaPierre suggested the outreach to North, the "warrior amongst our board."