Women in abusive homes fear for their safety as war leads to relaxed gun licensing

175,000 firearm license applications filed since Oct. 7 as Ben Gvir eases restrictions; forum calls for those with domestic violence complaints against them to be ineligible

Illustrative: A protest against violence against women in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Illustrative: A protest against violence against women in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, some 8,800 gun licenses have been taken out in the name of security. But for women’s groups and victims of domestic violence, this move has left many feeling anything but secure.

When some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel on the morning of October 7, killing 1,400 people and taking over 240 hostages, civilian security squads were the first to respond to the scenes of carnage.

As a result, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir set out on a mission to establish hundreds of those groups across Israel and purchased 10,000 rifles to meet this goal.

In addition to the over 600 teams that have already been set up, over 175,000 gun license applications have been submitted by individuals to the relevant authorities, and 8,800 of them have since been approved.

In recent days, the Michal Sela Forum, founded by Lili Ben Ami after her sister Michal Sela was brutally murdered by her partner in 2019, has warned against the potential risks that are posed by the influx of new gun owners, and the expedited application process.

“It’s true that personal weapons can save lives,” the NGO wrote on X, formerly Twitter, earlier this week. “However, it is important that we do everything we can to ensure that weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.”

The NGO said that it has “contacted the national security minister because a background check must be included in the new criteria for receiving a weapon to ensure that there is no threat or danger of domestic homicide,” after receiving several inquiries from women in abusive living situations.

Lili Ben-Ami, whose sister Michal Sela was murdered by her husband in 2019, is seen after a court hearing at the Jerusalem District Court on December 26, 2021. (Flash 90)

Repeating the call for background checks on her personal X account, Ben Ami shared a message she had received from an anonymous woman who found herself in danger following the loosened firearms regulations.

“I’ve decided to end my marriage because of severe verbal violence against me, and because my children are scared of him,” she wrote. “I have three children under the age of 10. The oldest one says he would rather we get divorced because of the way he speaks to me, and that he’s scared that he’ll hurt me.”

But when she tried to bring up the subject of divorce to her husband, he threatened her, not physically but verbally, as well as financially, she explained to Ben Ami.

“He’s also been using a drug called ‘Doctor’ [3-MMC] on the weekends,” she continued. “He has these tantrums, where he throws things, smashes plates, tears shirts, and breaks cell phones. One time he stepped on me and broke my toe, but he claimed it wasn’t intentional… one time he broke my daughter’s hand.

“Now he’s trying to get a gun license,” she wrote.

The woman explained to Ben Ami that while she doesn’t fear for her life right now, she doesn’t feel she can live like this any longer, and so she wants to continue pursuing divorce or separation.

“My therapist is concerned that once the separation is finalized, there’s no way of knowing how he’ll react,” she said. “I’m on a knife’s edge.”

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

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

While those who wish to take out a firearm license must undergo a police background check, the Michal Sela Forum has requested that the criteria be adapted to ensure that anyone who has had a complaint of domestic violence filed against them, even if it was closed, should be found ineligible for gun ownership.

The request stems from the fact that many domestic violence or assault complaints are closed before they ever reach the prosecution stage or even a police investigation. In 2022, the Israel Observatory on Femicide found that one-third of all suspects in domestic abuse cases had previous complaints filed against them.

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.

Distribution of weapons to standby forces, near the northern Israeli border with Lebanon, October 12, 2023. Photo by (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Twenty-three women have been killed in instances of domestic violence or suspected domestic violence since the start of 2023. On Tuesday, 38-year-old Maya Glogovski was found dead in Rehovot, and her partner, Ben Castro, has been named as the key suspect in the case.

According to the Michal Sela Forum, Castro was described as having been obsessive toward Glogovski, whom he dated for just one and a half months. After Glogovski tried to break up with him, he convinced her to get into his car with him, where he stabbed her to death before fleeing the scene, leaving her body in the car.

Castro’s father reported him to the police after he confessed to the murder, and he was arrested shortly after.

Glogovski was a third-year medical student at Tel Aviv University and was described by her friends to Hebrew media outlets as cheerful and intelligent.

Since October 7, the Welfare and Social Security Ministry has received at least 269 calls from people in abusive or potentially abusive homes, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.

This, combined with the brutal murder of Glovoski, compounds fears that the ongoing war will lead to a similar situation observed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 315% increase in domestic violence cases.

“The phrase I hear most is ‘now is not the time,'” Rivka Neumann, head of WIZO’s Division for the Advancement of Woman told Channel 12. “Women who suffer from violence today have this feeling that their personal horror or the violent and dangerous place in which they live is dwarfed by the great rift outside, the sadistic acts and the killing spree that we witnessed and the existential threats.”

“Still, what happens to you can put your life in danger,” she said. “The harm done to women is not canceled out by what happens outside.”

Most Popular
read more: