Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on civilians who own firearms to carry them at all times in the wake of a spate of stabbing and shooting attacks by Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and various places in Israel. “I think that carrying a licensed pistol and knowing what to do with it is imperative; it’s like doing reserve duty,” said the mayor in an interview to Army Radio on Thursday morning.
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“In retrospect, we can see that statistically the neutralization of terrorists was often done by capable people who weren’t necessarily policemen,” said Barkat, explaining his call for “weapon owners who know how to use them should carry them.”
Ashdod police commander Noam Shekel echoed that call at a town council meeting, where he urged city residents who own weapons to carry them “in order to increase the sense of security in the city.”
Criteria for licensing weapons were eased last year in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks. According to Knesset statistics, in 2013 there were 157,000 legal weapons in private hands in Israel, with 43,000 additional ones in the hands of security guards and another 130,000 rifles and pistols held by different organizations. These numbers do not include military firearms, or guns used by police or prison services. In addition, there were 7,000 unlicensed guns in 2012.
However, the Knesset Interior Committee demanded that the police prohibit security guards from bringing their weapons home, citing figures showing that at least 30 people were murdered over the last decade by weapons belonging to off–duty security guards.
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) said during a tour of the Old City in Jerusalem that “transferring responsibility to the citizens of Israel and calls for carrying weapons indicate a loss of control by the government and will lead to total anarchy.”
Barkat responded to footage shown on Israel Channel 1 TV news in which a man was seen carrying an unlicensed sub-machine gun through Jerusalem streets. He said the man’s weapon was a licensed “Glock” revolver which serves for self–defense, attached to a satchel. Jerusalem Municipality officials said that “the municipality doesn’t require additional permits for such pistols, which are used routinely in protecting the light rail system and other locations, given their great accuracy.”
They added that “Barkat was carrying such a gun when he visited the [Arab] neighborhood of Beit Hanina looking, together with Jerusalem police, at ways of restoring security to the light rail line in that area of the city. The mayor encourages carrying licensed arms in order to increase security and sets a personal example by doing so.”
Jerusalem’s light rail stations have been the site of several terrorist attacks, with the latest one occuring on Thursday noon when a Palestinian youth stabbed a Jewish man at a station near National Police headquarters.