More than half a million Israelis have become eligible to receive gun permits under a major reform of the country’s firearms rules, with the stated goal of improving the immediate response to terror attacks.
Under the new rules, which went into effect immediately upon being announced Monday, hundreds of thousands of veterans of the IDF’s infantry units will be eligible for gun permits, along with police officers who received the equivalent training.
Additionally, army officers ranked first lieutenant or higher, as well as non-commissioned officers ranked first sergeant or higher, who carried a weapon during their military service will no longer be required to return their guns and permits when they are discharged from reserve service, and will be allowed to ask to keep carrying them.
Volunteers in certain police units and in medical organizations Magen David Adom, ZAKA and Hatzalah will also be eligible to receive permits.
The reform was unveiled by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has pushed for allowing more Israelis to arm themselves as a response to terror attacks.
Under the old rules, Israelis had to prove a need for the firearms, such as living or working in an area considered dangerous, and undergo regular testing and training.
Under the loosened directives, individuals who have been in continuous possession of a firearm permit for 10 years will now be allowed to keep the permit indefinitely, without undergoing periodic tests to prove they still match the requirements.
The new policy was criticized by the leader of the left-wing opposition party Meretz.
Firearms “are a death machine whose civilian use needs to be reduced as much as possible,” Tamar Zandberg said in a statement. “Instead of dealing with the tremendous amount of illegal weapons on the streets endangering human lives, they are simply increasing the number of gun permits.”
However, Erdan’s office said the new regulations “significantly upgrade” the training process undergone by permit applicants and holders.
“Qualified citizens carrying firearms in public contribute to the sense of security, are an important line of defense from ‘lone-wolf’ attacks and thus strengthen public security,” Erdan said.
Many Palestinians have in recent years adopted the “lone-wolf” tactic of carrying out stabbing, car-ramming or shooting attacks against Israelis without the support or operational backing of any terror group. Thousands of such attacks, attempted attacks or planned attacks have been recorded by Israeli authorities since 2016.
“Many citizens have saved lives during terror attacks, and in the era of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks, the more qualified gun-carrying citizens there are — the better the chance to thwart terror attacks without casualties and reduce the number of casualties,” Erdan said in a statement.