Police minister Barlev eases gun license requirements for former cops

Recent terror wave has led to a spike in applications, with PM saying those with licensed firearms should not leave home without them

Shooting practice for Border Police officers, March 18, 2013. (Nati Shohat/ FLASH90)
Shooting practice for Border Police officers, March 18, 2013. (Nati Shohat/ FLASH90)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announced on Monday that he was easing requirements for former cops who wish to gain a personal gun license.

According to a statement from Barlev’s office, retired cops and Border Police officers, who have until now been barred from applying for a license, due to not receiving the requisite level of firearm training during their service, will be able to do so.

The decision will come up for approval by the Knesset’s Public Security Committee.

“The decision is intended to correct a distortion that prevented Border Police fighters and police officers from obtaining a license for private weapons after their discharge. This is an absurd situation, since they are very skilled in the use of weapons, especially in populated areas — a situation we have unfortunately encountered in recent attacks,” the minister said.

A report by Channel 12 news last month showed that the deadly wave of terror attacks that have struck Israel in recent weeks has sparked a sharp spike in applications for gun licenses.

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

Attacks in Israel, such as the one in Beersheba that left four Israelis dead, 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 weapons are 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.

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 last month.

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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