Under the policy instituted by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, for the first time, a change is expected to be made in the qualifications for obtaining a license to carry a private firearm for holders of an IDF combat soldier ID, Hesder Yeshiva soldiers, and MDA and Hatzalah volunteers. The updated qualifications will be submitted for approval as regulations to the Knesset National Security Committee.
As a result of Ben Gvir’s previously introduced policy change, the reduced time for obtaining a license for private carry in the past four months saw 11,393 new licenses being granted, a jump of about 280% compared to the corresponding period under the previous government during which only 4,054 new licenses were granted.
Also, according to the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, between 2017-2021, the rejection rate of firearm license applications by the firearms division of the defense ministry increased by about 20%, with the vast majority of the rejections being due to failure to meet the qualifications (87%).
For instance, there is often an increase in gun license applications from residents of Tel Aviv and Lod after local terror attacks on their streets and restaurants, but they find themselves automatically rejected because the residents don’t meet the strict requirements of high level IDF combat training experience, or the easier requirement of living in Judea and Samaria.
Ben Gvir’s initiative is logical: with the alarming increase in violent crime and terrorism, it makes sense to help law-abiding citizens arm themselves. And there are more than enough episodes where alert, armed individuals were able to thwart terrorist attacks before they had a chance to become huge tragedies.
But Israeli media also like to pull out reports about security guards (and not private gun owners) who used their work weapons to murder innocent individuals.
Last April, a 45-year-old foreign worker from Moldova was shot to death in her apartment in Ashkelon by a man in his 50s who is employed as a security guard. A week earlier, a 52-year-old security guard, a resident of Rosh Ha’Ain, shot and killed his wife, in front of their 14-year-old daughter. In March, a 46-year-old security guard murdered his girlfriend and her 16-year-old son, as well as a friend of the couple.
The problem with the wholesale easing of the requirements to carry firearms is that they don’t take place in a vacuum. A Calcalist article pointed out just how infuriatingly stunted is the system in charge of monitoring individuals who may use their firearms to kill their loved ones.
There is an array of systemic failures when it comes to updating the license of a firearm holder against whom a protection order has been issued for violence against his family.
The court is supposed to alert the licensing division when a weapon carrier is involved in a violent incident, but, according to Calcalist, the updating is done by fax and not online, and so human lives depend on how fast someone would get to the fax machine and enter the alert into the system.
About 15% of the protection orders issued against violent gun carriers between 2021-2019 omitted the individual’s ID number, and as a result, were not processed at all by the division.
But wait, there’s more: when the carry license is revoked, a text message is sent to the person against whom the warrant had been issued – before the weapon is taken from him. It gives him a chance to hide the weapon, and if he is particularly unstable, to murder his family before someone comes to claim his gun. Though we are unaware of any reports of this actually happening.
And a doozy: Bituach Leumi, Israel’s social security service on occasion fails to update the licensing authority when a gun carrier is diagnosed with a mental illness, which is potentially a disqualifier for a gun license.
Again, the rationale behind Minister Ben Gvir’s new regulations is sound and praiseworthy. But the system in charge of picking up the ricocheting bullets resulting from the increase in the number of gun-owning Israelis is decrepit. We would add that requiring a solid comprehensive 10 hours of pistol training before receiving one’s first gun license would not be a bad idea either.