Israeli Gun Control Eased in Wake of Terror Attacks

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch's decision will allow tens of thousands of previously ineligible people to legally carry a weapon.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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A gun shop in Tel Aviv.
A gun shop in Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has approved a broad easing of the rules for granting gun permits for private citizens. This will allow tens of thousands of people who did not meet the previous licensing criteria to now be allowed to legally carry a weapon.

Now any officer in the Israel Defense Forces reserves will be allowed to receive a gun license, although this will require the recommendation of an IDF officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher. Veterans of special forces or reconnaissance (commando) units and former security guards at the Israel Airports Authority will now also be allowed to receive gun permits. Until now, such people with security experience were required to ask for individual approval from the Israel Police, but this requirement will be scrapped. Former police officers who served for at least two years will also have the right to apply for a weapons permit, though this will require the approval of a police officer.

The Public Security Ministry expects thousands of citizens will be interested in receiving a gun license now, but emphasized that every request will be examined individually. The new rules were agreed on Wednesday during a meeting between Aharonovitch, his ministry's legal advisor Yoel Hadar, officials from the ministry's gun licensing division headed by Yaakov Amit, and the head of the security branch of the police, Brig. Gen. Amitai Levy.

An emergency order decided on at the meeting will allow security guards to take their weapons home with them for a period of 90 days, although they will be required to use a safety device keep a bullet from being chambered as well as storing the weapon in a safe. This decision will be reconsidered in three months, and may be extended then. Despite the new regulations, many security companies are not interested in allowing their guards to take their weapons home.

The list of communities where residents and people who work there are allowed to apply for gun permits, because the police consider them to be at risk, was expanded. Many of the 42 communities added to the list are in the area near the Gaza Strip – this is part of the conclusions reached after Operation Protective Edge last summer. A number of other changes were made to ease the bureaucratic procedures surrounding gun permits, including making it easier for a person who already has a gun license to trade the weapon in for a different one.

In recent years the Interior Ministry has actually tried to reduce the number of gun permits issued to private citizens in Israel. For example, as of 2014 the category allowing anyone who had a permit for at least 10 years to continue to carry a weapon legally – even after the original criteria for approving the permit no longer applied - was scrapped. In addition, the criteria for people who had been allowed to carry weapons because of certain professions - such as diamond dealers and the owners of stores that deal in gold - were also cancelled.

“The decision to ease [approving gun permits] is a result of the present need to strengthen the feeling of security for the population, in light of the recent terrorist incidents befalling us," Aharonovitch said. "Issuing the licenses will done in a controlled and responsible fashion while using judgment, and based on the criteria of authorization and training."

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