Number of Gun License Requests Spikes Amid Deadly Terror Wave in Israel

The day before the terror attack in Be'er Sheva, which killed four Israelis, the Defense Ministry received just 44 requests; ten days later the number rose to 1,773

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Men at a gun range in Kfar Saba as part of security guard training, in 2015.
Men at a gun range in Kfar Saba as part of security guard training, in 2015.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The number of requests for gun permits submitted to the Defense Ministry multiplied by 40 over a ten-day period – from last Monday, the day before the terror attack in Be’er Sheva, to this past Wednesday, a day after the terror attack in Bnei Brak.

According to ministry figures, some 148,000 people have a permit for a firearm, apart from members of the security forces. It takes about two weeks for requests for such permits to be processed, and the acceptance rate stands at about 65 percent.

Last Monday, the ministry received 44 civilian requests for firearms permits; during peacetime, when tensions are low, the average daily number of applications is 60. On Tuesday, when four people were killed in a stabbing and car ramming attack in Be'er Sheva, the number spiked to 143 requests. It has risen almost daily since.

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On Sunday evening, two men from Umm al-Fahm who identified with the Islamic State opened fire in Hadera, killing two members of the Border Police. That day, the number of firearm permit requests stood at 363. Most of the applicants had filled out the forms on the Defense Ministry website immediately after the attack. The next day, the number doubled to 792.

After the shooting attack in Bnei Brak on Tuesday night, in which five people were murdered, the number of requests reached 956. On Thursday, over 24 hours after the attack, the ministry received a record 1,773 requests.

Regarding the terror wave, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Thursday, “What is expected of Israeli citizens? Alertness and responsibility. Keep your eyes open. Anyone who has a gun license, now is the time to carry it."

Most requests met the criteria of having had combat service-level weapons training or living in an eligible community, such as a West Bank settlement or border town.

The last significant spike in permit applications took place after the fighting between Israel and Gaza in May, which also saw riots in mixed Jewish-Arab towns. In June 2021, the number of applications the ministry received was triple that of the previous month, reaching 6,525. In July, however, the number dropped to 1,424. Two months later, in September 2021, the Defense Ministry received just 666 requests.

According to a senior defense official, most people who submit gun permit requests do not follow through with the process. This is due to a number of factors – the security tensions may dissipate, and applicants must pay a fee, submit medical documents and receive approvals from doctors and the police.

The source said the average time for receiving a license was two weeks. With the volume of requests, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev ordered that the number of personnel at the gun licensing division be increased.

The Public Security Ministry is considering changing the criteria for firearm permits, due to a petition submitted to the High Court of Justice by a union of civil service organizations called the Pistol on the Kitchen Table Coalition.

Among other steps, the ministry is weighing changing the main criterion for receiving a gun license: military combat service-level weapons training. They are considering limiting this criterion to people who underwent military training in the recent past, in order to ensure a certain level of weapons expertise. The ministry is also weighing the possibility of allowing people who completed lower-level training in the Border Police to apply for a license.

“Flooding the streets with guns isn’t the solution, it’s the problem – doing so ignores the proven risks inherent in guns owned by private individuals," says attorney Anne Suciu of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. "The connection between readily available weapons and suicide and family murders is undoubtable," she said. "We’re not ignoring the security situation, but we must take the risks into account as well."

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