Gun permits said to spike since terror attack, Ben Gvir’s order to expedite process

Around five times as many weapons allowances than usual granted in past month as Nation Security Ministry fast-tracks applications

A man fires a pistol at an indoor shooting range during a qualification course in Katzrin in the Golan Heights on January 31, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A man fires a pistol at an indoor shooting range during a qualification course in Katzrin in the Golan Heights on January 31, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The issuing of new gun permits has spiked since a devastating terror attack in Jerusalem late last month and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s subsequent order to fast-track the permit process.

In the past month, around five times as many gun permits have been granted than usual, the Walla news site reported on Tuesday.

The ministry has granted up to 408 permits in a day, and aims to raise the number of permits from around 2,000 per month to 10,000.

The National Security Ministry’s Firearms Licensing Department is working through around 9,000 permit applications.

Ben Gvir has instructed the ministry to work according to emergency procedures to speed the process through May of this year, including by working longer hours and enlisting more staff.

The minister also decided to nullify the requirement of interviews for security officials seeking a personal license. That would mean IDF officers, police officers, Shin Bet officials, Mossad officials, Prison Service wardens, and firefighters would no longer need to wait for an interview to get their license.

Permits are set to be issued, on average, about 75% faster with a wait time of around 45 days, the report said.

“Civilians’ personal sense of security has fallen in recent years so I acted to accelerate the number of weapons in the streets, so that it will be possible to save lives in real time,” Ben Gvir said.

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

“The calls that come up after terror attacks and other incidents to give weapons permits are dangerous and don’t look at the bigger picture, and only deal with the benefits of more weapons,” lawyer Ann Suciu of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told Walla.

Otzma Yehudit party leader National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on January 30, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

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.

Ben Gvir announced a planned overhaul of the ministry’s firearm licensing department last week.

According to data released by the National Security Ministry last week, there were 147,248 issued gun licenses, compared to a high of 185,399 in 2009.

According to the ministry, 42,236 applications were submitted in 2022, an all-time record. Before 2021, gun ownership had been on the downswing, with an average of 13,000 applications a year between 2016 and 2020.

The rise in applications has been attributed to the May 2021 Jewish-Arab race riots in many cities during a war with the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

Of the applications last year, 10,986 licenses were issued, and 4,404 were given conditional approval.

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.

ACRI said some 200 licensed guns are stolen each year, and around 11% of suicides per year are committed with firearms.

Most of the recent terror incidents have occurred in the West Bank, where civilians can already apply for a license. Currently, some 13% of gun licenses are based on home or work location criteria.

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