The powerful gun rights lobby went on the offensive on Friday arguing that schools should have armed guards, on a day that Americans remembered the victims of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre with a moment of silence.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, noting that banks and airports are patrolled by armed guards, while schools typically are not.
His remarks - in which he charged that the news media and violent video games shared blame for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history - were twice interrupted by protesters who unfurled signs and shouted “stop the killing.”
Speaking in Washington, LaPierre urged lawmakers to station armed police officers in all schools by the time students return from the Christmas break in January. LaPierre did not take questions from reporters.
Response from the Jewish community was swift and critical of LaPierre’s statements. “It was outrageous, I must say, even for them,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly. Schonfeld said the NRA’s statement contained a “total absence of any sense of the common good or moral responsibility.”
“Judaism is very clear in that you don’t provide weapons to people who are likely to harm you,” Schonfeld added.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement that said, “The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country. Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.”
Congressman Jerrold Nadler called the NRA’s response to the Newtown shootings as, “both ludicrous and insulting,” and called the NRA “fundamentally out of step with the American people on the issue of gun violence.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center, also condemned the response and dismissed laying blame on violent video games as a root cause of increased violence. “Yes, there’s far too much violence in our entertainment, and it corrodes our children’s souls, and we have to change tha,t and religious communities can be helpful,” Saperstein said. “But in scores of other nations who see the same films, play the same video games, they don’t got take their mother’s legally acquired Bushmaster rifle and walk into schools and shoot people. The difference between those countries and ours is the availability of weapons.”