Soon-to-be president of the National Rifle Association Oliver North accused gun control activists of “intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking” last week and said the NRA had fallen victim to “civil terrorism”, comparing the organization’s experience to that of victims of the Jim Crow era.
The former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, known largely for his role in the Iran-contra scandal during the Reagan administration, made the remarks during an interview with The Washington Times.
“This is civil terrorism,” he told The Washington Times, reportedly in reference to activists splashing fake blood on the home of an N.R.A. official. “This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America.”
“You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things — even there you didn’t have this kind of thing,” he said.
During the Jim Crow era, many states and cities passed laws that institutionalized racial discrimination and segregation. Lynchings were common. Civil rights activists were beaten and killed.
North’s remarks drew sharp criticism from high school students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year in Parkland, Florida.
“He’s just continuing to spread fear. He’s definitely a good fit for his new job,” Ryan Deitsch, a senior at the school, said in an interview during his lunch period on Friday.
Mr. Deitsch said he wants to sit down and speak with Mr. North to understand his perspective. But he expressed frustration that, with their criticism of gun control activists, Mr. North and the N.R.A. seemed more focused on “attacking the speaker and not the speech.”
Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting, also answered North’s remarks via Twitter:
“We will end your reign of terror and we will pass common sense gun safety in this country. Your remarks sound like the remarks of a lobby that has already lost the argument and so you attack us,” he said in a series of tweets.
North insisted in his interview with The Times that the Parkland students had been taken advantage of by political actors pushing anti-gun propaganda:
“What they did very successfully with a frontal assault, and now intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking, is they confused the American people,” he told The Washington Times. “Our job is to get the straight story out about what happened there, and to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again because the proper things are being done with the advocacy of the N.R.A.”