There are 292,625 licensed guns in private hands in Israel. Some 160,000 are owned by citizens who meet specific licensing criteria, like former members of the security forces and residents of the territories. The other roughly 130,000 guns are registered to organizations that employ guards, like security firms, and companies located in the territories.
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These figures do not include weapons belonging to the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Police, Israel Prison Service and other official bodies.
The math works out to one private weapon per 19 Israeli adults.
For a private citizen to get a gun licenses – as it seems the man who entered the Be'er Sheva bank Monday and killed four people did – he must have a reason that is listed in the official regulations.
The Public Security Ministry allows a person who lives or works in a community in or near the territories to own a single gun and 50 bullets. He must present documented proof of the location of his home or workplace to get a license.
An IDF officer with the rank of captain or higher or a noncommissioned officer with the rank of master sergeant or higher is allowed to carry a gun with the recommendation of the commander of his unit. In 2005, the IDF eliminated the requirement that all officers and noncommissioned officers carry weapons and began limiting the granting of weapon permits.
Another basis for qualifying for a gun permit is having a "security background." Members of this group are officers who retired from the IDF with the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher or serve in the reserves with the rank of captain or higher. The Public Security Ministry requires people who qualify this way to carry valid officer's identification cards. Officers with ranks lower than lieutenant colonel must be recommended by the commanders of their reserve units to get gun licenses.
Security officers at public institutions recognized by the Israel Police with at least a year of experience qualify for gun licenses. But the Public Security Ministry requires the head of the police's security branch to approve each application individually.
The ministry also allows fire fighters, Magen David Adom employees, hunters, regular shooting competition participants and drivers of trucks that haul explosives to get gun licenses. People who have legally and continuously owned pistols, air rifles or air pistols may also apply for gun licenses. There are also a number of hobbies that qualify people to apply for gun licenses.
Public Security Ministry regulations require people with gun licenses to immediately report relevant status changes – like the end of a dangerous job or qualifying hobby – to the gun licensing authority.
Gun licenses must be renewed every three years. The process involves submitting a health declaration signed by a physician, undergoing gun safety and shooting training and demonstrating adequate gun knowledge and control.
In recent years, the Public Security Ministry has reduced the available avenues for getting a gun license, disqualifying, for example, diamond, gold and jewelry traders.