Israeli Activists Petition High Court to Freeze New Eased Gun Rules

More guns means more suicide, violence and murders – especially against women, claim petitioners

A demonstration in protest of violence against women, in Tel Aviv, on October 18, 2018.
Meged Gozani

Ten social action groups have petitioned the High Court of Justice against the new regulations formulated by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan enabling more army veterans to receive gun licenses. The new rules took effect in August.

The petitioners are also demanding cancellation of the emergency regulations that took effect six months ago and allow security guards to carry their weapons even when off-duty. The activists stress that criteria for receiving a weapons permit – whether for private use or as part of one's job – should be anchored in legislation, not in administrative regulations.

“The new criteria expand access to civilian firearms in an extreme fashion and their presence in the public and private domain,” the groups charge in their petition, adding that the government is thus increasing by 600,000 the number of potential civilians who can get firearm licenses.

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“Any person who served in the military and underwent combat training (Rifleman 7 or higher), even if 50 years have passed since they finished their service, is entitled to possess a firearm – subject to health and police approval and according to the minimum criteria,” the activists said about Erdan's new reform.

The petitioners presented data to the court, showing that the rate of murders carried out with weapons in Israel is significantly higher than the average in other developed countries in the OECD. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, weapons are used in 40 percent of murders in Israel, as compared to 28 percent on average in OECD nations.

The social action groups noted that after the previous criteria for granting weapons license began to be implemented in the mid-1990s – placing much stricter limits on who is entitled to receive such a license – the fundamental principle seemed to be that Israelis do not have an inherent right to carry arms. For example, firefighters and people living in communities exposed to security risks were included in these criteria. The policy limiting receipt of permits, the petitioner said, was formulated based on the conclusions of five inter-ministerial panels.

Michal Gera Margaliot, managing director of the Israel Women’s Network, one of the petitioners, said availability of weapons in the public domain increases the number of incidents of violence, murder, suicide and accidents.

“The government needs to focus on protecting the lives of its citizens, not in creating additional means to harm them,” said attorney Gera Margaliot.

In Israel, she added, violence against women and even murder of women are not seen as acts of terrorism; the lives and safety of women are not a government priority. She noted that just in the last week two teenage girls were murdered and that 24 women have been murdered in the country in violent circumstances so far this year.

One of the framers of the High Court petition, Anat Thon-Ashkenazy, who is executive director of Itach-Maaki – Women Lawyers for Social Justice, said: “It is absurd that given the atmosphere of violence that already exists in the public and personal domain, [Erdan] has chosen to expand the spread of firearms by four times: from 150,000 to 600,000 – instead of acting to implement the existing plans to prevent violence and impose limitations on weapons.”

The greater the number of weapons in civilian hands, the more people will "pay for it" with their lives, Thon-Ashkenazy added.  

The High Court petition was filed by Itach-Maaki, the Israel Women's Network: Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center; Gun Free Kitchen Tables; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Physicians for Human Rights; the Israel Organization of Families of Murder Victims; Together – Kulan; New Profile – The Movement for the Demilitarization of Israeli Society; Na’am – Arab Women in the Center; and Women Against Violence.