Israel Cracks Down on Illegal Arms Dealing, Possession

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Arms used by five Israeli Arabs arrested for trying to set up ISIS cell in Israel. December 8, 2015
Arms used by five Israeli Arabs arrested for trying to set up ISIS cell in Israel. December 8, 2015Credit: Courtesy

Israel is cracking down on the possession and trade in illegal arms. The state prosecutor laid down new rules Sunday for prosecutors regarding cases of possession and bearing of illegal arms, as well as commerce involving them, while making distinctions between weapon types.

Barring unusual circumstances, State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan wrote in a circular disseminated to prosecutors on Sunday, the jurists should seek significant prison terms even in cases of first-time offenders. The pamphlet describes the ranges of penalties the prosecutors should ask for, following conviction for the above-mentioned offenses.

While the new directives do not cover illegal use of arms per se, they do distinguish between offenses that involve different types of weapons – the least serious being ammunition, followed by firebombs (so-called Molotov cocktails), then handguns, rifles, sub-machine guns and, finally, explosives.

Based on the new rules, prosecutors should seek six months’ imprisonment for illegal possession of ammunition, although that penalty can be converted to community service. The crime of illegally bearing ammunition should henceforth carry a six- to eight-month jail sentence, and trading in weapons – six to 12 months' imprisonment.

Someone in possession of a firebomb should now be given a sentence of six to 18 months; bearing one is to cost the perpetrator 7 months to a year; and the punishment for dealing in firebombs should be between 10 and 30 months in prison.

For possessing an unlicensed handgun, prosecutors will in future demand one to three years in prison. Bearing an illegal gun is considered a more serious offense: For that the prosecution will demand up to four years’ prison, and for trading or dealing in such weapons, six years.

For possession of explosives, the prosecutors are now being asked to demand up to seven years' imprisonment, in extreme cases; for bearing explosives, eight years; and for commerce in them, between five to 11 years.

When deciding on the penalty to seek in court, Nitzan explained, prosecutors should consider, among other things, the weapon type, the number of weapons the accused had in his possession, where he held the weapons, and the degree of danger they posed. In addition, it is important to take into consideration the background of the offense (such as a feud), and whether the defendant had a concrete plan to use the weapons.

The new directives were drawn up by a team at the State Prosecutor's Office, which is working to update existing regulations and prepare directives for punitive measures where none exist.

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