Israeli Government to Back Stiffer Punishment for Unlawful Gunfire

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaking to the cabinet meeting on March 25, 2018.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

The cabinet voted Sunday to support an amendment broadening the definition of illegal discharge of a firearm and stiffening punishments for the offense. The move came about two weeks after videos showing convoys of masked men driving on a highway in southern Israel, firing guns into the air to celebrate a wedding. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is to vote on the amendment at its next session.

The current law refers only to unjustified gunfire in residential areas, imposing a maximum sentence of one year in prison for the offense. The proposed amendment would increase the maximum sentence for that offense to five years. In addition, it would make it illegal to fire a gun without cause on roads, in commercial or industrial areas and in places of entertainment, imposing a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The amendment was drawn up by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

The preamble to the bill cites the “public interest in prohibiting any illegal discharge of firearms, even in the absence of a concrete danger to human life.”

Last week three Negev residents were arrested in connection with the incident that was captured on video and uploaded to social media. One video shows several vehicles approaching Route 40’s Ohalim Junction. One, a Mitsubishi SUV, drives onto a traffic island, at which point a masked passenger shoots in the air. Another clip shows people getting out of a Toyota SUV and shooting in the air.

Police believe the shootings were part of wedding celebrations in the Bedouin community of Tel Sheva.

“We have given the law enforcement establishment an important tool, and I expect the police to do everything possible to address the phenomenon of gunfire in the Bedouin and Arab communities,” Erdan said after the cabinet approved the amendment.