Applications for personal gun licenses have increased seven-fold in the past week, against the backdrop of Jewish-Arab clashes throughout Israel. An average week sees about 270 requests for handgun licenses; this past week, 1,926 were submitted.
A senior law enforcement official said that "The number of requests is enormous, but makes sense in light of the security situation in the country." He added that the applications represent "the public's fear that at the moment of truth, the police won't be there, and they'd prefer to defend themselves in a life-threatening event. After the images we're seeing in Lod, Ramle and the areas of the Triangle and the Negev, it makes sense that civilians would request to arm themselves in order to protect themselves and their families."
There are currently about 145,000 civilians in Israel who hold a gun license, in addition to members of security services. Applicants must meet specific criteria, such as holding a certain military rank, living in a West Bank settlement or near the border wall, working particular jobs such as medics and farmers and other limitations. Most civilians are limited to one handgun and 50 bullets.
The criteria for acquiring a gun license was expanded in past years under Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who approved granting permits to former combat soldiers and reserve officers with a rank of captain or higher. At the moment, most of the civilians applying for licenses are doing so under the criteria of having served in a combat unit during their military service and proximity to the West Bank.
The Public Security Ministry said in a statement that all of the applications that have been submitted were received by the branch's service center, and will be reviewed before being transferred to district licensing offices. According to the ministry's statistics, about 60 percent of requests are approved. The rest are denied due to not meeting criteria, police refusal to grant them a license or objections by the Health Ministry.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana is an advocate for easing weapons restrictions, and last week wrote on Twitter that "law-abiding citizens bearing arms increases the authorities’ ability to prevent any threat or danger." The police support this position. Last month, Ohana extended an ordinance that allows security guards to bring their weapons home with them after work.
Since clashes broke out between Arabs and Jews in the central Israeli city of Lod, the police have confiscated dozens of licensed guns from Jews who traveled to the city to aid its Jewish residents. Police chiefly fear that a Jewish gunman's actions will exacerbate the confrontations.
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Four Jewish residents of Lod were arrested last week on suspicion of involvement in the shooting of Arab resident Moussa Hassouna. The four, who all held gun licenses, were detained for three days before being conditionally released. They are suspected of reckless homicide.