Gun permit requests since October 7 equivalent to number in previous 20 years

Over 236,000 people apply for licenses, as Ben Gvir seeks to arm civilians despite warnings that weapons will be used by criminals

Members of the emergency squad of Moshav Amuka seen during a drill in Moshav Amuka, northern Israel, November 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: Members of the emergency squad of Moshav Amuka seen during a drill in Moshav Amuka, northern Israel, November 15, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Requests for gun permits have skyrocketed since Hamas’s devastating October 7 massacre, the National Security Ministry said Wednesday, as far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seeks to arm civilians in the wake of the attack.

More than 236,000 new requests for permits have been filed since the incursion — a figure equal to the number filed in the past 20 years, the ministry said in a statement, noting that 31,000 licenses have so far been issued.

Of those individuals who recently received a license, 18,000 have purchased guns.

Some 1,700 permits are being issued daily after the National Security Ministry eased restrictions, the statement said.

When some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel on the morning of October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 240 hostages, civilian security squads were the first to respond.

As a result, Ben Gvir set out on a mission to establish hundreds of those groups across Israel and has purchased 10,000 rifles to meet that goal.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, in the Knesset, Jerusalem on September 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I call on all those who are eligible — be patient with the backlog, and go get armed. Guns save lives,” he said in late October.

Under Ben Gvir’s direction, the eligibility criteria for receiving a gun license have been significantly broadened to include those who served in IDF combat units that previously weren’t eligible, volunteer paramedics, and new immigrants to the country who previously had to wait three years before submitting an application.

By comparison to the recent figures, an average of 94 licenses were issued daily in November 2022, and an average of 42 a year earlier.

Many are concerned about the proliferation of weapons. Palestinians worry that they may be used against them by extremists, and women’s groups have sounded the alarm, calling for those with domestic violence complaints against them to be ineligible.

According to the most recent data from Gun Free Kitchen Tables (GFKT), a gun control initiative working to disarm civil spaces in Israel, 12 women were shot and killed in 2021, up from an average of eight a year from 2016 to 2019. At least 23 women have been killed in instances of domestic violence or suspected domestic violence since the start of 2023.

Earlier this month, Channel 12 reported that the Welfare and Social Security Ministry had received at least 269 calls from people in abusive or potentially abusive homes since October 7.

According to a paper published by The Zolat Institute for Equality and Human Rights, the influx of weapons in the hands of civilians may leak into the criminal world, leading to harm to innocents.

“It is very doubtful, from a practical point of view, if the police can carry out effective supervision when it comes to such a large scope of new civilian defense squads and especially in view of the existing shortage of police officers and officers,” it read.

Separately Wednesday, Ben Gvir came under fire from relative of hostages after he boasted about the harsh conditions in prison wings holding captured members of Hamas’s elite Nukhba force who took part in the devastating October 7 onslaught.

“As per our instructions, the terrorists receive the most stringent conditions: eight handcuffed terrorists in a dark cell, iron beds, toilets in a hole in the floor and the Hatikva national anthem constantly playing in the background,” he posted on X.

“I hope that my request to hold a discussion in the cabinet on the death penalty law for terrorists that we have already passed in preliminary reading will be answered, that the law will be advanced and we can apply it to these vile murderers,” he added.

Gil Dickmann, whose cousin Carmel Gat is held hostage in Gaza, implored Ben Gvir to stop publicizing the humiliation of the captives.

“Itamar, I’m begging, My cousin is now in the hands of Hamas,” Dickmann wrote. “Your words, about the dark dungeon, the hole in the floor, the handcuffs and the humiliation put her in real danger.”

“Every tweet of yours is a match that burns the hearts of our families. I’m begging, Itamar. There are Israelis there, whose life and death depend on your words. Please stop.”

Ben Gvir has been criticized for advancing populist policies, particularly in prisons, without consideration for potential broader security consequences.

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