The number of Israelis applying for firearm licenses has increased by 600% in recent weeks following a wave of terrorist attacks in March in Israeli cities that left 19 people dead.
The Knesset’s Public Security Committee convened on Tuesday to discuss the activity of the Ministry of Public Security’s Firearm Licensing Department.
Yisrael Avisar, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s Firearm Licensing Department, reviewed the department’s areas of responsibility for the committee and noted that there were currently 150,015 private firearms, mainly for the purpose of self-defense, held by 141,646 citizens.
A total of about 15% of the population is licensed to carry personal weapons. In the US, in comparison, 40% of adults say they live in a household with a gun, including 30% who say they personally own one, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2021.
Gun ownership laws in Israel are far more stringent, and not considered a basic right.
Chen Cohen of the Firearm Licensing Department said that while the average number of applications for firearm licensing was about 600 applications per month, since the start of the wave of terrorism in March the department had received about 600 applications per day.
“There is a 600% increase in demand for private firearms, and 29,698 applications were submitted from March until May,” Cohen said.
Since the beginning of 2022, 32,000 applications had been submitted, of which about 12,000 applications were entered for processing. About 2,700 applications were so far approved and 1,542 were rejected.
Cohen said that after the attacks, there were peaks in applications, and “for example, after the terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, 1,800 applications were submitted in one day.”
Avisar said that the department’s policy is “balanced and restrained, weighing, on one hand, the value of self-defense, and on the other hand, ensuring that a person doesn’t use a firearm irresponsibly due to a psychological condition, state of health or potential risk.”
However, Member of Knesset (MK) Nir Barkat noted that less than 10% of firearm applications were approved, and that the state should be “allowing many more combatants to carry weapons. Anyone who performs reserve duty should be allowed to get a weapon in civilian life as well.”
“We are prepared for yesterday’s situation. We need 200,000 combatants who will help the police protect their neighborhoods and their families in the next state of emergency, when we’re attacked on several fronts. With the current system, we won’t reach these numbers, because it can’t provide a response,” he warned.