Recent reports out of Israel show that that Israeli civilians aren’t taking a recent spate of terrorist violence lying down, they are arming themselves to fight back. Further, the Israeli government is cooperating by taking measures to ensure that more citizens will have access to the tools necessary to protect themselves and their communities.
In recent weeks, Israel has experienced a wave of attacks, primarily stabbings, carried out by individual Palestinians against Israeli civilians. According to the Washington Post, as of Wednesday, eight Israelis had been killed and dozens injured in this latest round of violence.
The Israeli government has taken drastic measures to combat the attacks, calling up reservists and deploying troops in cities. However, with the unpredictable nature of the violence, civilians are turning to private gun ownership for safety.
In describing the clamor for arms, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported “[c]ars are double- and even triple-parked outside a gun shop in Israel’s coastal city of Tel Aviv. Inside, customers jostle each other as they wait to be served.” The report goes on to quote store owner Iftash Ben-Yehuda, who said, “[t]he last time the shop was so busy was probably in the 1970s. I’ve never before seen such stress or panic.” The article also notes that applications for firearms licenses have risen “by tens of percent” in only 10 days.
Some seeking arms recognize that the effects of carrying go well beyond their own personal safety. Jerusalem resident Netanel Oberman told Bloomberg News, “I want a gun not so much because I’m worried for my own safety, but because I’ll be better prepared to protect other people from attack.”
Israel Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan seems to agree with this assessment. In a statement Wednesday, Erdan noted, “[i]n recent weeks, many citizens have helped the Israel Police subdue terrorists. Citizens trained to use weapons are a multiplying force in our battle against terrorism. Therefore, I have worked to ease conditions for obtaining firearms.”
Further, on Wednesday, the Ministry of Public Security issued relaxed guidelines on who is eligible for a firearm license. The move makes it easier for those on active or reserve military duty to acquire a license, as well as civilians who have completed a requisite security guard course.
Israel typically has very stringent firearm licensing requirements that have gotten progressively stricter over the course of the last two decades. However, just last year, government officials were forced to ease restrictions on carrying firearms following a brutal terrorist attack that resulted in the murder of four Orthodox Jewish men in a West Jerusalem Temple.
Unfortunately, as the Bloomberg News article makes clear, some law-abiding civilians are unable to get a firearms license even with the relaxed rules. Segev Gorbitz of Jerusalem told the outlet, “[i]t’s not right… I want a gun to defend myself and my family, and if you’re an Israeli like me who served in the army and have no criminal record, you should be able to get one.”
Remarkably, even given the present dire situation, Israel’s anti-gun activists are still out in force. The AFP article quoted a leader of an Israeli anti-gun coalition called Gun Free Kitchen Tables, who told the outlet, “[i]n the long run it is obvious that more weapons creates more danger, not more security but the opposite… Encouraging civilians to use firearms on the street could lead to very unfortunate results.” Similarly, according to Bloomberg, Galia Wallach of NA’AMAT, which holds anti-gun positions, protested her countrymen’s increased access to the tools of self-defense, telling a radio program, “I’m very concerned that easing licenses for guns might escalate violence.”