Israel has Biden’s desired gun laws. Do they help?

Israel has severe restrictions on private gun ownership, and still there’s a crisis of gun violence in the Arab sector.

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: Guns
A Vendor sells guns at Jerusalem shooting range, following the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel. April 3, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
A Vendor sells guns at Jerusalem shooting range, following the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel. April 3, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

US President Joe Biden’s predictable first response to the shooting in Kansas City following the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory was to call for tighter gun restrictions.

“It is time to act. That’s where I stand. And I ask the country to stand with me. To make your voice heard in Congress so we finally act to ban assault weapons, to limit high-capacity magazines, strengthen background checks, keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business owning them or handling them,” said the president.

But will that really work to reduce criminal or terrorist gun violence?

The common counter-argument is that criminals and terrorists by definition don’t obey the law, so new gun restrictions aren’t going to prevent them from obtaining guns and using them in illegal ways.

Americans needn’t debate the matter in a theoretical manner. A more scientific approach would be to examine a nation that already has the kind of gun laws Biden desires and determine if they’re working to reduce or eliminate gun violence.

And Israel is such a nation.

Let’s look at some of the gun restrictions in Israel:

  1. You cannot own a private assault rifle. Personal weapons are limited to hand guns and hunting rifles. And hunting rifles are exceedingly rare, since purchasing one requires a valid hunting license, which is itself difficult to obtain due to the heavy restrictions on hunting.
  2. Each licensed gun owner is permitted to possess no more than 50 rounds of ammunition at any given time.
  3. You must have a reason for requesting a gun license, such as living near a border area, which then must be approved by a committee. Forty percent of all gun license requests in Israel are rejected. In other words, you can’t just buy a gun because you want to have a gun.
  4. A physician must confirm the applicant’s mental health.
  5. Each applicant is required to complete a short gun safety course, and commit to annual refresher sessions in order to renew their license.

Sounds like the kind of regulations Biden and the Democrats would love to introduce in the US in the belief that doing so would significantly reduce, or altogether eliminate gun violence.

Has it worked in Israel?

Gun-related violence and deaths among the Jewish population are very low. But there are other reasons for that in addition to the above regulations. Gun violence is traditionally not a societal problem among Jewish communities. And Israel’s entire Jewish population completes mandatory military service, where a “purity of arms” doctrine is drilled into them at a young age.

Israel’s Arab sector is a better example in this case, given that for local Arabs, military service is voluntary, and societally, gun violence is as common in the Arab world as it is in America.

Still, they live under the same gun restrictions as any other Israeli. So, have Israel’s strict regulations succeeded in preventing gun violence in the Arab sector?

No. They haven’t. In fact, over the past few years, Israel has marked a crisis of gun-related violence and murder in the Arab sector.

  • There were 4.31 deaths related to gun violence per 100,000 people in the United States in 2021
  • There were about 1.5 deaths related to gun violence per 100,000 people in Israel that year
  • But in the Arab sector, that number was over 5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021
  • In 2023, that number skyrocketed to a whopping 12 deaths related to gun violence per 100,000 people in the Arab sector in Israel

Most of these crimes are carried out with illegally-obtained weapons by people who do not possess a gun license. Israel’s strict gun laws did not prevent these individuals from arming themselves and killing others.

“There are crime organizations that sell weapons, there are thefts from houses and from people with gun licenses. There are soldiers whose guns are stolen, as well as army bases that have been robbed,” a former Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) official told The Times of Israel in 2016, stressing that criminal elements will always find a way to arm themselves because laws don’t deter them.

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