Since the public security minister changed the criteria for gun permits, over 2,800 civilians have requested a permit, an increase of 183 percent compared to the same period last year. Still, the numbers are far lower than the ministry’s initial estimates that a change in criteria would lead to 35,000-40,000 requests.
In light of the meager public response, the ministry now estimates that only about 10,000 additional people will receive gun permits, bringing the total number to about 140,000, not including members of the police force and the army.
In August Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan eased the criteria for carrying a weapon by opening it to anyone with military training, who is medically fit and has no criminal record in addition to meeting previous criteria. The minimum standard to qualify carrying a gun is military level 07 rifle training. The change also included four-and-a-half hours of prior instruction instead of only two, include the firing of about 100 bullets. Of 2,809 requests, only 900 have been approved thus far.
Those favoring Erdan’s initiative mention the recent fatal stabbing attack of Efrat resident Ari Fuld in Gush Etzion. Despite the stabbing, Fuld pursued the terrorist, fired at him with his personal weapon, and hit him. Another civilian at the site also hit the terrorist.
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“It’s hard to explain why there is such a meager response,” says Alex Zohar, chairman of the Israel Society for Gun Culture Enhancement, who favored the changes. “I think anyone capable of carrying a gun should do so, but apparently a large part of the public thinks otherwise. A weapon is also responsibility, which not everyone wants. Those who claimed that half a million people would want guns see that not even 50,000 wanted them.”
Zohar said that every terror attack is followed by requests. “Presumably the increase should have been greater,” he said. “Maybe the militarism often described is exaggerated, and people are either much more peace-loving or simply unaware of the dangers. We still believe that weapons are more effective in preventing crime and attacks, and far preferable to using pizza trays or selfie poles, as we’ve seen in the past.”
Meir Roth, owner of a company selling weapons and ammunition, wasn’t surprised. “There’s always initial enthusiasm, people who wanted a permit and suddenly meet the criteria,” he said. “There was a lot of noise at first and yes, we also wanted only those who deserve them to get guns, those who do reserve duty and understand what it means to carry a weapon. There aren’t many others who have the necessary skill.”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), who conducted a hearing on the issue in the Committee on the Status of Women, said: “Reality has taught us the hard way that ‘civilian weapons,’ in the absence of close and constant supervision, and in the absence of strict conditions for getting a weapons permit, cost lives. Putting weapons in the hands of another half million civilians will just enable an even lighter finger on the trigger.”
She added: “Arming some of the public, primarily Jews, in the name of ‘the right to self defense from terror,’ says means one thing regarding the incitement and unbridled attack on the Arab public and the Palestinian people: putting weapons in the hands of people incited by the government to carry out executions anytime they feel a subjective threat. In other words, any time they see an Arab they don’t like.”