NEW YORK – Breaking a week-long silence after the devastating mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, is defending his lobby’s position by citing Israel for model school safety measures worth emulating in the US.

The statement comes days after President Barack Obama vowed to address gun violence in his State of the Union address next month, and to support the renewal of a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

“Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing,” LaPierre said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “They said, ‘We’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security at every school, and they have not had a problem since then.”

To fortify all 130,000 schools in the United States would require manpower equal to twice the number of American troops currently in Afghanistan. But on a stateby- state level, some legislators – in Texas, Arizona and South Carolina, among others – are considering the cheaper prospect of arming teachers or encouraging similar measures that would provide schools with the opportunity, they say, to fight fire with fire.

LaPierre’s suggestion to place armed guards at schools was roundly criticized by gun control advocates. The New York Daily News ran a front page headline calling LaPierre “the craziest man on Earth.”

Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Center at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The Jerusalem Post that the NRA would “vehemently oppose” anything similar to Israel’s gun laws.

“Israel restricts firearms and military-style weapons far more than the United States has ever done, including ammunition,” Lowy said. “The NRA is simply making up their own facts.”

According to the NRA’s LaPierre, the gun rights advocacy group will not support any new gun control laws out of Washington. He added that the NRA’s efforts are now focused on making schools safer in America by arming “the good guys.”

The organization has recruited a former congressman, Asa Hutchinson, to put together a program allegedly modeled on Israeli security norms.

“If you got rid of guns in schools tomorrow throughout Israel, my guess is that terrorist attacks would be widespread,” John Lott, well known for his support for rights to carry concealed weapons in the US, as captured in his book The Bias Against Guns, told the Post.

“I don’t like the idea of armed guards because its very expensive, and they would just become targets themselves,” Lott said. “But Israel is a place we can learn from – its been the perfect laboratory, and has innovated when things haven’t worked because the problem there is so glaring.”

Israeli officials and academics, however, distanced themselves from comparing the gun situations in Israel and the US. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the situation in Israel was “fundamentally different” from that in the United States.

“We didn’t have a series of school shootings, and they had nothing to do with the issue at hand in the United States. We had to deal with terrorism,” Palmor told the Daily News.

“What removed the danger was not the armed guards but an overall anti-terror policy and anti-terror operations which brought street terrorism down to nearly zero over a number of years,” he said.

“It would be better not to drag Israel into what is an internal American discussion.”

In full agreement was Prof. Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University “The attempt to compare the two tragedies is absurd,” Steinberg told the Daily News.

“Palestinian terror attacks like one one at Maalot – the goal of which was to use the children as hostages in order to free other terrorists – are totally different from crimes committed by deranged people with guns.”

Gun control and the perceived proliferation of guns in Israel are unique to the country: While most Israelis are trained to use guns for self-defense during their time in the IDF, the weapons cannot be purchased as recreational tools or for personal protection without going through an extraordinarily strict process of background checks – both medical and criminal – as well as a competence test, a three-month waiting period and Public Security Ministry approval.

“Their message is an intended distraction from the demand of virtually all Americans that we have some sensible restrictions on guns,” Lowy added, referring to the NRA. “Yes, we have a bit of a gun culture in this country.

But there’s not a cultural history in America of having a thriving criminal gun market.”

The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the US. It has over four million members and claims to speak for one in three American households.

“Everybody wants to take guns away from criminals,” gun expert Lott told the Post.

“But if you pass a law, who is most likely to obey it?” To counteract the NRA lobby, dozens of celebrities, including Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston, are appearing in a public service announcement asking US citizens to demand tougher gun control.

The public service announcement – produced by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of hundreds of US mayors led by Michael Bloomberg of New York City and Thomas Menino of Boston – also features appearances by Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Christina Applegate, Julianne Moore, John Legend, Will Ferrell, Selena Gomez, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Reese Witherspoon and others.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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