Israel: No Link Between Gun Ownership and Domestic Murders

Defending the easing of gun permit criteria, state tells court there is no factual basis for claims that increased rates of Israelis owning guns contribute to domestic violence

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FILE Photo: A shooting range in the central Israeli town of Kefar Sava, 2015.
FILE Photo: A shooting range in the central Israeli town of Kefar Sava, 2015. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

There is no connection between possession of arms in the public domain and incidents of domestic murder, the state claimed in response to a petition against a resolution to broaden the criteria for obtaining a gun permit, allowing more Israelis to be armed.

The state’s assertion further reveals that the number of applicants to obtain gun permits has tripled since Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, a member of Likud, extended permit criteria to any citizen who has military-level 07 rifle training.

In response to the petition by The Gun on the Kitchen Table, a coalition of social organizations, the state rejected the argument that the presence of weapons in the public domain will impact the number of domestic murders. Neither the police, Erdan nor experts found a factual basis that would justify not expanding the criteria, the state said.

>> Applications for gun permits nearly triple after Israel eases criteria

Between 2015 and 2018 there were 39 cases of uxoricide (murdering one’s wife), of which only three of the murders were carried out using privately-owned guns, the state said. In none of the three cases had the wives complained about violence against them before they were murdered, the state added, “and moreover, in two of the cases, the deaths were of both the spouses (murder and suicide) in the backdrop of sickness. In other words this is not the ‘classic’ profile of violence in the family,” the state said.

However, the state’s reply was confined to domestic murder, excluding other types of family violence in which guns were involved – such as attempted murder, bodily harm, or threat. Nor did the state address the question of whether expanding the criteria to anybody who underwent military combat training had affected the incidences of violence within the family.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and acting police chief Motti Cohen in Jerusalem. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

From the time the criteria was widened in August 2018 to April 2019, the state said 6,599 gun permit requests had been made and half (3,817) had been approved. In comparison, from January 2018 until the expansion, there had been 2,003 requests. The state said the number of requests based on the criteria of military service was increasing. In practice the minister’s policy to gradually increase the number of citizens trained to use armed weapons and possess guns was being implemented. The purpose of the policy, the state went on to explain, is to make people in the public domain feel safer and to enable a better response to possible incidents of terrorism.

At year-end 2018, the state said, the number of privately-owned guns totaled 147,814, not including guns owned by the Israeli army, the police or the security services.

The petition against widening the criteria was signed by Adv. Anat Thon-Ashkenazy, the head of the Itach Maaki association; Adv. Anne Sochi of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Adv. Smadar Ben Natan of The Gun on the Kitchen Table. “The numbers speak for themselves,” the three stated in response. “In that short period thousands of gun permits were added, which could constitute great danger to the general public. The substantial rise in the number of people bearing guns conflicts with the policy of preventing violence against women and children. It is infuriating that given the facts – that the more guns to possesses, the more women are murdered by their husbands or a relative – the Public Security Minister is ignoring the threat to women and children living in the shadow of violence, now that their household has also gained a gun.”

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