The Dangerous Rush to Arm Israeli Civilians

Calls to enable civilians to carry weapons in the street are likely to sow unnecessary death and disaster, rather than foil terrorists.

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A gun shop in Tel Aviv.
A gun shop in Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod

A new danger has been added to the dangers facing every resident of this country following the recent rash of terror attacks. This new danger, “a gun for every civilian” should and must be foiled. In recent days, there is a wave of populist voices calling on civilians who legally own weapons to carry them wherever they go.

Police and local authorities have already started issuing unofficial guidelines for carrying personal firearms. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who has been spotted in recent days armed with a pistol just like some American sheriff, recommended yesterday that residents of his city also carry their personal weapons in order to increase their sense of security. “People with weapons and former soldiers with combat experience know how to intervene. That intensifies our strength,” he explained. One can assume that Barkat was addressing only the Jewish residents of the city, but in any case such a recommendation is dangerous and lamentable.

It’s true that in a few terror attacks the perpetrators were neutralized by civilians carrying guns, but the risk of large numbers of pistols and rifles in our streets greatly outweighs their benefits. Multiple firearms in the hands of unauthorized or unskilled people can lead to anarchy. Particularly in the present climate, in which the levels of stress and tension are constantly rising, one shouldn’t expand the circle of passersby wielding firearms.

Civilians could rush to use their weapons needlessly, sowing unnecessary death and disaster. Unwarranted shooting, a lighter-than-ever finger on the trigger, misidentification, inaccurate shooting as well as shooting from an inflamed emotional state and out of a quest for revenge could bathe Israel in additional and unnecessary blood. Civilians may end up shooting suspects who could be apprehended instead, or take out their rage on innocent Arabs, claiming that they felt threatened. Every roadside argument or bar squabble could deteriorate into murder.

Anyone who wants to know what happens when civilians walk the streets fully armed need only look at the United States. The cities of Israel are saturated with policemen and armed security personnel, whose job is to protect people. This task should not be privatized – armed civilians should not be added to their rosters.

FBI agents work the scene at the Armed Forces Career Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015. Credit: Reuters

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