EDITORIAL: Did the NRA Misrepresent Israel’s Guns-in-Schools Policy? (VIDEO)

In pitching its National School Shield Emergency Response Program to the nation on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ and CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday, the NRA pointed to Israel as an example of a country that puts armed guards in schools to protect children from mass shootings.

“You know, it was interesting, Bob, because I was — that week I was in Israel,” NRA President David Keene told CBS’s Bob Schieffer.

“And they had a spate of school shootings in the 70s and on, and then they decided that they needed to have security at their schools. They started out with volunteers. They eventually institutionalized it and now they have armed security at the schools, and they’ve stopped the problem,” explained Keene.

Likewise, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre also invoked the Israeli school security system in his dialogue with NBC’s David Gregory.

“Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said, `We’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then,” LaPierre explained.

Well, as an Associated Press article noted, the suggestion that Israel had a problem with school shootings and authorities placed armed guards in schools as a result is not factually accurate.

Israel never had “a whole lot of school shootings.” Authorities could only recall two in the past four decades.

In 1974, 22 children and three adults were killed in a Palestinian attack on an elementary school in Maalot, near the border with Lebanon. The attackers’ goal was to take the children hostage and trade them for imprisoned militants.

In 2008, another Palestinian assailant killed eight young people, most of them teens, at a nighttime study session at a Jewish religious seminary in Jerusalem. An off-duty soldier who happened to be in the area killed the attacker with his personal firearm.

Authorities also told the AP that Israel puts armed guards in schools to protect them from terrorists, not crazed gunmen.  Moreover, the experts said that the school guards are not the “first or last line of defense” but they fit within a larger framework of security, which includes armed guards at other public facilities, including bus and train stations, parking lots, malls and restaurants and quick response teams of special-forces operatives who travel on motorcycles.

“We’re fighting terrorism, which comes under very specific geopolitical and military circumstances. This is not something that compares with the situation in the U.S,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told the AP.

So, it appears that the NRA got caught in a bit of a lie.  However, does it really matter?

On some levels, such as professionalism and doing quality research it does, but on others, such as the overall efficacy of the Shield Program it does not, one could argue.

To that latter point, does it really make a difference on what threat the armed guard is there to deter?  To put it another way, isn’t an armed guard’s job to protect school children from any and all threats, be it terrorism or a crazed gunman?

Regardless of the reason, common sense tells us that it is better to have an armed guard (or volunteer or faculty member, etc.) than to not have one.

The other issue that got overlooked in the AP article criticizing the NRA was the fact that the Shield Program is not limited to armed guards.  As LaPierre said in the NRA press conference last Friday:

“The NRA is going to bring all of its knowledge, dedication and resources to develop a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it. From armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training, this multi-faceted program will be developed by the very best experts in their fields,” LaPierre explained.

The NRA is promoting a comprehensive approach to school security; only part of the plan is armed guards.  Like with stopping terrorism, preventing school shootings takes cooperation and coordination on multiple fronts.  The NRA understands this, let’s hope the rest of the country catches on as well.

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