Ben Gvir moves to ease gun bureaucracy in bid to arm civilians against crime, terror

Recently discharged IDF troops, police officers, firefighters, active reservists will need only health declaration, police approval to carry arms

Illustrative: Israelis practice shooting handguns at the Olympic Shooting Range in Hertzliya, October 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Israelis practice shooting handguns at the Olympic Shooting Range in Hertzliya, October 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90/File)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday approved measures to make it easier for certain Israelis to obtain a firearm license, as part of a controversial plan to fight rising violent crime rates and a terror wave by arming more Israelis.

According to the Walla news site, any former Israel Defense Forces combat soldier discharged in the previous five years, active reservists, as well as police officers and firefighters, will receive an exemption from personal interviews when applying for a license.

The move, which must be approved by the Knesset National Security Committee, will significantly shorten the bureaucratic process, so that it consists only of filing a health declaration and a police permit.

The outlet quoted the far-right minister as saying armed civilians are crucial in thwarting many terror attacks, “and we will do anything we can to allow all those who meet the criteria to get gun permits.”

Confirming the report, Ben Gvir tweeted: “There is no reason why tank and combat engineering soldiers — who made up the IDF’s frontline ground forces in combat — aren’t authorized to possess a gun as well as many other IDF soldiers that until today, absurdly did not meet the criteria.”

Gun control in Israel is relatively strict, and weapons are generally only granted to those who can show a need for extra security in their line of work or daily life. Citizens in nearly all cases can only own one gun and only 50 bullets at a given time.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a rally in support of the government’s planned judicial overhaul outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 27, 2023. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

But Ben Gvir has pushed to overhaul the current policy, following a series of terror attacks. Since handing down new orders in February, there was a spike in approvals, with 12,000 licenses issued since, according to Walla.

Ben Gvir in February instructed the National Security Ministry’s firearm licensing department to work according to emergency procedures to speed the process through May of this year, including by working longer hours and enlisting more staff.

Critics warned that the additional firearms will come with significant risks, including suicides, violence against women, road rage incidents, and murders.

According to data from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, of 32 women murdered with firearms between 2019 and 2021, nine were killed by people with licensed guns.

Hagit Pe’er, head of the Na’amat women’s movement, warned in a statement that the loosening of controls would not increase safety, and, on the contrary, “is the ultimate expression of lack of governance in its wildest manifestation.”

Pe’er added that one needed only to look at the United States, which has experienced a spike in deadly shootings this year, as an example of the consequences of loose gun control measures.

“Women living in terror of violent partners inside their home will sleep even less when a gun is placed under their husband’s pillow. This really isn’t the solution to the wave of violence that is washing over Israel’s streets; it’s the opposite,” she stated.

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