Israel, the tiny democracy in the Middle East with terrorists along all its borders, has more stringent gun-control laws than anywhere in the United States. Unlike our Second Amendment, there is no recognition of the right to keep and bear arms.
After the horrific terrorist attack by Hamas from Gaza, Israel’s government suddenly made it slightly easier for its citizens to own firearms for self-defense.
Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir announced Sunday in Hebrew an emergency declaration that will “allow as many citizens as possible to arm themselves.” Currently, a mere 1.5 percent of the civilian population has a license to own a gun.
Emergency Gun Policy
Ben-Gvir’s emergency policies for the Firearm Licensing Department went into effect in 24 hours.
The laws that require proving “a need” to own and carry a gun have not changed. However those eligible to apply for a license under the “self-defense test” can now do the required interview on the phone instead of in person. The applicant will be approved for the license within a week under the new order.
While a citizen can still purchase only one handgun, the limit on rounds of ammunition has been increased from 50 to 100.
According to the minister, 4,000 citizens who applied for a conditional permit in 2023 but let the license expire before using it can now purchase a firearm. Another 1,800 people in the past six months who returned their guns to the government for not taking a training renewal course can get their weapons back.
Israel’s Strict Gun Control Track Record
The narrow eligibility criteria for Israelis to apply for a gun license remain the same as before the attack. You are eligible to apply only if you live or work in the settlement areas or are employed in professions that use guns — like security guards, police officers, or firefighters. Active duty military, military veterans of a certain rank, and special forces can also apply.
When applying, an individual must provide references, proof of residency for three years and meet the minimum age requirement (based on military service and residency.) Applicants must also prove a basic knowledge of Hebrew and provide a health declaration from a doctor.
The person must pass the interview, pay a licensing fee, buy the gun, and attend 4.5 hours of training at a shooting range.
Applicants can meet all these requirements but still be denied based on criminal convictions, drug use, or certain mental health conditions.
An Israeli who no longer meets all the eligibility requirements must notify the Firearm Licensing Department and deposit their firearm and license at a police station within 72 hours.
The complex application process may explain why only 140,000 of the 9 million Israelis have a permit.
Gun Rights Advocate
Ben-Gvir has been pushing for more civilian gun ownership to deal with both terrorist attacks and crime since he took office at the beginning of this year. He made it easier to get permits by adding staff to process the licenses. He expanded those qualified to apply to include more veterans and medic volunteers.
“I want more weapons on the streets so that the citizens of Israel can defend themselves,” he said in January.
By early June, the Jerusalem Post reported that new licenses jumped by 280 percent compared to the same four-month period in 2022.
Ben-Gvir said in August that his policies led to an 88 percent increase in the number of women receiving firearms licenses.
“Women that want to defend themselves and their families is a blessed thing,” said Ben-Gvir. The government’s quick announcement after the devastating attack to ease gun-control laws shows that some Israelis Israelis want to arm themselves instead of waiting for the military or police to arrive. Our God-given right to self-defense is ingrained in all of us and knows no borders.