National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has agreed with police on a new policy toward civilians who shoot terrorists during attacks whereby their weapons will not be confiscated and they will not be interrogated under caution, according to a Saturday report.
The new guidelines are intended to encourage citizens to bear arms and use them when necessary, according to Channel 12, as part of Ben Gvir’s larger efforts to ensure a greater number of armed Israelis on the streets to tackle terror attacks.
There was no immediate confirmation from the police.
Currently, a civilian who shoots an assailant usually has their firearm taken away as part of the investigation, sometimes for lengthy periods of time. They are also often summoned for questioning, sometimes under caution of potential wrongdoing (though it is exceedingly rare for a person to face any charges).
The new policy will be used under the following conditions, the report said: that the incident is a nationalistic terror attack; that the shooter acted in self-defense; that only the attacker was hit or killed; and that the civilian stopped firing the moment the danger had passed.
In such cases, the firearm will be examined at the scene by police before being returned to the civilian, and the person will not be probed under caution.
Though the change in procedures is intended to encourage people to not hesitate to act in case of an attack, the network noted that there are concerns it could also loosen trigger fingers, potentially leading individuals to open fire when such action is not justified.
On Tuesday, Ben Gvir said a terror attack in Tel Aviv vindicated his push to have more Israelis carry guns, after an armed civilian shot and killed the attacker who injured seven people in a stabbing and ramming spree.
“I congratulate the brave citizen who neutralized the terrorist, cutting the attack short and saving lives,” Ben Gvir said on Twitter.
“This again proved the importance and effectiveness of citizens carrying guns,” Ben Gvir said. “I call on the public who meet the criteria: carry guns.”
Gun control in Israel has traditionally been relatively strict, with licenses 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 own a single gun and only 50 bullets at a given time.
Under current guidelines, military service entitles an applicant to a gun license only if they served in combat infantry units.
However, in recent months, Ben Gvir has proposed dramatically expanding the criteria to include any veteran of combat service, including those who served in armored and artillery units and the Border Police, along with Hesder yeshiva students — who do a shortened military stint and also spend time studying in yeshiva — and Magen David Adom ambulance service volunteers.
Some 22,000 Israelis have applied for gun licenses in recent months, Channel 12 news reported on Tuesday night, and some 18,000 of the applications have been granted.
As national security minister, Ben Gvir oversees the police force and the Border Police.