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Firearm applications skyrocket after spate of terror attacks

Over 1,500 applications filed Wednesday, compared to 60 per day normally, as PM urges gun owners to carry firearms with them amid terror wave

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Israelis practice shooting handguns at the Olympic Shooting Range in Herzeliya, October 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Illustrative: Israelis practice shooting handguns at the Olympic Shooting Range in Herzeliya, October 18, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

A deadly wave of terror attacks that has struck Israel in recent weeks has sparked a sharp spike in applications for gun licenses according to a Thursday report.

More than 1,500 applications for a license were submitted on Wednesday alone, compared to a daily average of 60 applications, Channel 12 news reported, citing Public Security Ministry data.

The data also showed a large jump in the number of people calling the ministry to inquire about how to obtain a license.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday called on the Israeli public to remain alert amid the deadliest terror wave to hit the country since 2006, and said those with gun licenses should not leave home without packing heat.

“What is expected of you, citizens of Israel? Alertness and responsibility. Open your eyes. Whoever has a license to carry a weapon, this is the time to carry it,” he said.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian terrorist killed five people in Bnei Brak. Earlier attacks in Hadera, on Sunday, and Beersheba, last week, left six Israelis dead.

Attacks in Israel, such as in Beersheba and a stabbing on a bus in the West Bank Thursday, are often stopped by gun-toting civilians before police can arrive. Applications for gun licenses generally go up during periods of heightened tensions.

A suspected assailant being shot in Beersheba, on March 22, 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

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

According to data released by the Public Security Ministry in January,  applications for gun licenses rose sharply following May’s 11-day war with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

“Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 constitutes a turning point regarding the increase in new applications for personal firearms,” the ministry said at the time.

Data showed that between May and the beginning of 2022, some 15,849 new applications were submitted to the ministry, with an all-time record of 6,092 applications submitted in June alone.

Overall, some 19,375 applications were submitted throughout 2021, compared to a yearly average of 9,600 applications in recent years.

Illustrative: An Israeli woman with a pistol clipped to her belt walking in the center of Jerusalem, on February 14. 2007. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Some have questioned whether more guns on the streets will make Israel safer.

“A gun license won’t allow an inexperienced individual, who shot an M16 rifle during his military service, to prevent homicidal terror attacks professionally and without casualties,” tweeted former Meretz party head Zehava Galon Thursday.

Before 2021, gun ownership in Israel had been on the downswing.

In 2009, there were 185,000 gun licenses among the Israeli public, compared to 148,617 in 2021.

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