Israel is experiencing a steady and worrying rise in homicides and terror attacks. And National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir believes that part of the solution is to get more guns in the hands of responsible citizens.
Since the start of the year, Israel has suffered 78 homicides, a sharp jump from the first four months of 2022. Police officials told Haaretz that this is partially due to their forces being spread too thin by ongoing anti-government demonstrations.
It was also notable that the vast majority of the homicides (60) occurred in the Arab sector, which has seen a significant increase in internal violence.
Palestinian terrorism has claimed another 18 Israeli lives since the start of 2023, with many times that number wounded in dozens of attacks.
Ben-Gvir noted in social media remarks that the terror casualty figures would have been much higher had armed citizens not intervened when they did.
“In many terrorist attacks that have taken place in recent months, we have seen how important and critical the reaction of armed citizens is,” he wrote. “This is a critical and life-saving security issue.”
Since taking office Ben-Gvir has been focused on loosening Israel’s restrictive gun license regulations.
Israel has much more stringent gun laws than the United States, despite much of the population being familiar with firearms due to the country’s near-universal compulsory military service.
In most cases, civilians may only carry pistols, and licenses are mainly dependent on completing firearms training. Most individuals can own only a single handgun, and be in possession of a fixed limit of bullets at any given time.
Applicants must meet minimum age requirements, have no criminal record, and provide a declaration signed by a doctor that they are physically and mentally healthy. Licenses must also be renewed every three years.
Ben-Gvir isn’t planning to do away with those regulations, but does want to fix the requirements so that more Israelis meet them.
For instance, he decried the fact that thousands of former IDF soldiers trained in the use of firearms are for one reason or another disqualified from obtaining a personal gun license under the current licensing regime.
The minister also said he had pushed through 12,000 pending gun license applications that “were stuck due to bureaucratic complications.”
“With God’s help, many more citizens will be able to obtain a gun license, without bureaucratic difficulties and in a much more efficient way than before,” he concluded.
Where it will help, and where it won’t
More guns in the hands of more responsible citizens has proved important in combatting what Israelis call “lone wolf” terrorism – shooting, stabbing and car-ramming attacks by individual terrorists.
And Ben-Gvir isn’t the first Israeli politician to urge more Israelis to carry guns as a deterrence to terrorism.
The increase in gun licenses is less likely to help curb criminal homicides, especially in the Arab sector, where military service is not mandatory and very few meet the criteria to obtain a firearm permit.
With reporting by TPS.
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