NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — Oliver North, the retired lieutenant colonel and current president of the National Rifle Association, claimed on Thursday morning that efforts to implement gun control would lead to “every firearm in the country” being confiscated.
North, who is best known for his role in the Iran-Contra affair, was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, as part of a morning series of speeches entitled “What Makes America Great.”
“Our opponents ought to call themselves the vanguard of the disarm America movement,” North said. “They’re not going to be content to simply ignore the last four words of the Second Amendment, they want to repeal all 27 words and confiscate every firearm in the country.”
North went on to describe the NRA as the “nation’s oldest civil rights organization” and described the Second Amendment as “the purest metaphor for freedom.”
“If the disarmament movement takes over the country every one of those God-given freedoms are up for grabs,” North said. “The America we know will cease to exist.”
North’s comments come at a difficult time for the NRA. Last September, it was reported that the NRA’s revenue had dropped by $55 million in the year after the 2016 election. Membership revenue specifically declined by $35 million, and the financial squeeze was so bad that, in November last year, The Trace reported the NRA was doing away with free coffee and water coolers at its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters.
To make matters worse, on Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the first significant piece of gun control legislation in over 20 years, requiring federal authorities to carry out a full background check for all firearms purchases. While Trump is likely to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk, the bill’s passage in the House demonstrates the burgeoning strength of the gun control movement in the wake of several mass shootings in Las Vegas, Florida, and Texas over the past two years.
North’s speech notably served as a dog-whistle to the far right, which has pushed the idea of a second civil war that would supposedly begin with gun confiscation.
Militia movements have long maintained that any sort of gun control opens the door for government tyranny. Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones have repeatedly played up this theory, which has been popularized on the fringes of the right by extremist literature like The Turner Diaries, a piece of white nationalist propaganda which has been linked to over 200 murders. The novel, first published in 1978, describes the fictional account of a man who leads an uprising against Jews and non-white citizens, and opens with a tyrannical U.S. government confiscating guns.
On Thursday, North appeared to suggest that the solution to such paranoid fears was more guns and more money for the NRA.
“I ask you to pray for the NRA,” he said at the end of his speech. “We know it’s freedom that makes America great and we know that freedom is it safest place.”
NRA spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment on North’s address or the House bill passed Wednesday night.