The number of applications for gun licenses more than doubled in 2021, the Public Security Ministry said on Tuesday, attributing the increase to the riots that erupted in mixed Arab-Jewish cities across Israel last May.
Overall, 19,375 people applied for gun permits in 2021, up 120 percent from 8,814 the previous year, the ministry said. Roughly two thirds of those applications were filed in June, the month after the riots.
To date, 9,037 applications, or 47 percent, have been approved, it added. In 2020, 55 percent of applications were approved.
Despite last year’s surge, the number of people licensed to own guns has dropped by about 20 percent over the last decade. Altogether, 148,000 Israelis have permits, not including the weapons issued to security guards, soldiers, police and members of other defense agencies.
“Even though the consistent, multiyear decline in the number of people licensed to carry guns is an important trend,” Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said, the rise in applications following the May riots “stems from cracks in people’s sense of security.
“Our job is to seal those cracks, to improve our domestic security forces’ response to events and to explain this in the best possible way to the public, so that they will have a sense of personal security without the need to carry a personal firearm,” he said.
The Abraham Initiatives, an organization that seeks to promote Jewish-Arab equality and Arab integration, said the data “points to two worrying developments that are occurring simultaneously – many people feel the police won’t protect them in times of need, along with a cynical exploitation of the situation by people who advocate getting a gun for nationalist reasons."
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“To avoid a civil war here, the police’s monopoly on guns must be preserved,” it urged. “A scenario of mass gun acquisition by civilians will lead to a situation a hundred times more dangerous than what we saw in May 2021.
They added that "The police must do its job and give all Israelis, Jews and Arab like, a feeling of security, while also clarifying and restricting the eligibility criteria for gun ownership. Only that way will we all enjoy security and hope for a shared life.”