Israeli Army Fails to Give Police Enough Background to Review Gun Permit Applications

The Public Security Ministry also found that only six inspectors monitor 148,000 holders gun permit holders throughout the country

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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A police officer aiming a gun in Ramle, June 2020.
A police officer aiming a gun in Ramle, June 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The Public Security Ministry says the army and police have no clear mechanism for sharing information when deciding whether to issue someone a gun permit, with the army not providing data on gun crimes by soldiers.

According to a 2019 report by the ministry, only six inspectors monitor 148,000 holders of gun permits throughout the country.

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The ministry only published the report after a court commented on a petition by a nongovernmental organization whose name translates as “the gun on the kitchen table.”

The document points to flaws in assessing the risks among Israelis  possessing gun permits. It says the social affairs and public security ministries do not cooperate or have rules on sharing information on permit holders.

“The Social Affairs Ministry has 103 domestic violence centers, and by law it is required to report on any person in treatment who has a weapon, or on whether they pose a risk to others,” the report says.

“In effect, for years there has been no systematic cooperation or rules for cooperation between the Social Affairs Ministry and the part of government responsible for issuing permits for firearms.”

The report was written by a committee headed by a former police commissioner, Dan Ronen. It followed the decision by the previous public security minister, Gilad Erdan, to loosen the rules for issuing a permit; Israelis with army infantry training can receive a permit if they meet the health requirements and have no criminal record.

The report reviewed data for 2014 to 2018, for the first time delving into the issue of gun suicides. The figures show that in 18 such suicides in 2018, 15 times the gun was issued by a private security firm; in the other three cases it was privately owned. Some of these suicides were by security guards, others by relatives.

The report recommends the establishment of a hotline for family members or anyone else close to a gun holder; they would be able to report any unusual behavior or improper use of the weapon.

Despite the many gun thefts in Israel, there are few arrests or indictments, the report says. In the five years studied, 1,192 guns were stolen, and more than 90 percent of these cases were closed. Usually no suspect was ever found.

Only two indictments were issued for stolen guns for the entire period studied. In most instances the weapons were stolen from the owner’s home.

“The report is deaf and blind to the issue of guns owned by private security firms,” said the legal adviser to the NGO, Meisa Irshaid. “This is a Band-Aid ordered after the criteria were eased, which set off a public outcry.”

The army said in response: “The IDF is in constant contact with the gun licensing board with regard to issuing licenses, and there is a regular exchange of information. All convictions at military tribunals are reported under the law to the police’s criminal registry. The issue is handled by a regular dialogue between the agencies.”

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