The Knesset approved on Tuesday legislation that sets minimum sentences for weapons-related offenses, amid a rise in crimes related to illegal weapons possession.
The amendment to the Criminal Code, which passed as an emergency order and will be in effect for three years, passed its two final votes with only four Knesset members present, all of whom voted in favor.
The law states that the minimum sentence for anyone convicted of possessing, carrying, buying or selling a weapon illegally must be handed no less than a quarter of the maximum sentence set in law, between seven and 15 years of prison time. The amendment also prohibits serving the entire sentence on probation, except in exceptional circumstances.
The explanatory notes to the law, which was sponsored by New Hope lawmaker Sharren Haskel, state that in spite of strict punishment for these crimes and the increased severity of the sentences handed down by the courts in the last three years, the number of crimes of illegal weapons possession have risen.
“Possession of illegal weapons is one of the main factors in the rise in the number of incidents of murder and violence,” leading to an increase in demand for illegal weapons among criminals, the explanatory notes read.
According to the State Comptroller’s report quoted in the law's notes, from 2017 to 2020 the number of shooting incidents reached a record high of 10,874, in 2020. “Accordingly, a rise was recorded in the number of violent criminal cases in which weapons were used, and the number of victims, especially in the Arab community, also grew,” the report said.
Under the new law, public security and justice ministers will be required to report to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on the number of indictments filed by the police and State Prosecutor’s Office for weapons offenses each year.
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The ministers will also be required to report the number of cases closed and the reasons for closure, as well as the number of cases that ended in a plea bargain arrangement, the number of investigations opened, the number of verdicts handed down and the punishments imposed.
Responding to the law's passage, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said "This government is determined to correct years of criminal neglect and restore citizens' personal security."
Likud's Shlomo Karhi, who was not present at the vote, argued “this bill is a fraud. It deals with other things, instead of having the justice minister deal with the legal system he heads.”