In the wake of Monday’s killings at a Beersheba bank — in which a former Border Police officer killed four people and then himself — the Israeli authorities intend to further tighten regulations to reduce the number of civilians eligible to keep guns, media reports said Monday night.
The killer, Itamar Alon, had a permit for the gun he used in the rampage, but had done no work that required such a permit for the past decade, Channel 2 news reported.
Alon had served in the Border Police, receiving a citation for his role in preventing a terrorist attack in the city during the Second Intifada, and subsequently as a security officer for Beersheba educational institutions. But he had not worked in security for years, and was unemployed. “There was no reason for him to have been allowed to retain his gun permit,” Channel 2 reported, quoting police sources.
Former police commissioner Moshe Karadi said Monday night that the bank killings marked one of the worst incidents of its kind in decades, but that the police are encountering a relentless rise in violent crime, and have been working for years to reduce the number of gun permits. Police sources quoted by Channel 2 said this effort would now intensify under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Security, which is in charge of both the police force and the licensing of civilian firearms, with Monday’s killings serving to underline the imperative.
The bank branch where Alon carried out his murderous attack did not have a security guard, and nor was it supposed to under police regulations, because it was primarily a mortgage bank, which did not hold large sums of cash.
Karadi, interviewed on Army Radio, said the police had changed the regulations over the years regarding institutions that require armed guards — precisely to reduce the number of firearms in daily public use.
In the US, similar and graver incidents in recent years have prompted widespread debate about gun control. In April, the US Senate voted down a bill that would have toughened background checks for gun purchasers. The legislation, backed by President Barack Obama, was advanced after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults in December in Newtown, Conn.
Israel, a country that often appears to be inundated with weapons, actually extends very few gun permits to civilians — only 2.5 percent of the population can legally carry a firearm, The Times of Israel reported in a lengthy feature in December.
The police conduct a background check for all applicants and pass the information on to the ministry’s Firearm Licensing Department, which also requires that applicants present a medical form signed by a physician. The form consists of 24 questions, ranging from a patient’s physical health to his or her history of substance abuse and psychiatric care.
Some 170,000 Israeli citizens are licensed to carry a weapon; of these, 40,000 are security guards who work in supermarkets, malls and schools.