Editorial

Lowering the Blood Threshold

A new Israeli policy regarding gun permits is a dual failure: it fails to protect its citizens and ignores the science regarding gun violence

An Israeli woman checks out a new pistol at a gun shop in Tel Aviv October 20, 2015.
REUTERS/Baz Ratner

This week Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan lowered the threshold for receiving a gun permit. From now on, any discharged soldier who has undergone infantry training (level 7 Rifleman) will be allowed to carry a gun regularly as a civilian - in other words, almost everyone who has completed combat service in the Israeli army. 

The reform will increase the number of those entitled to carry a gun by hundreds of thousands; the estimate is that at least 40,000 people will request a permit. They will join about 145,000 people who already have a gun permit unrelated to their job, including residents of the settlements and communities near the separation fence and the borders.

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Erdan explained the purpose of easing the restrictions: “Skilled civilians carrying a gun in public contribute to the sense of security and constitute an important line of defense against terror attacks.” In other words, armed militias, which will presumably prevent terror attacks - although the “skill” that is acquired in most infantry units doesn’t include complex firing with handguns in the heart of a civilian population.

Erdan’s new policy is a dual failure: He admits that the state is incapable of providing basic protection to its citizens and that the government expects them to defend themselves in time of trouble; and he ignores all the studies conducted in Israel and worldwide, which have found a clear connection between an increase in gun ownership in the private and public spheres and a jump in cases of murder, accidents and suicides - primarily the murder of women by their partners and relatives.

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Erdan claims that the new policy “strikes a balance between the need to protect the public and the need to safeguard the public from incorrect use of firearms,” but it’s not clear on what this assertion is based; data on this subject has never been presented to the public.

Furthermore, as opposed to the recommendation of the police, Erdan’s partners to the reform and Likud - MKs Yoav Kisch and Amir Ohana (who heads the Knesset caucus for shaping gun-carrying policy) - to ease the requirements for initial and ongoing training for gun owners, with the horrifying explanation that this constitutes “superfluous bureaucracy.”

Until Erdan assumed his position the trend in Israel was to reduce the distribution of weapons in the streets. For example, after a wave of the murder of women by their partners who work for security services, security guards were asked to leave their guns at their workplace and not to take it home.

The Israel Defense Forces has adopted a similar policy. Erdan has reversed this responsible trend, which was favored by right-wing ministers as well, and has chosen to flood Israel with lethal weapons - as in Republican America - an object of admiration for many Likud members - where the policy of gun ownership has already claimed many victims.
It has already been proven that arming civilians leads to unnecessary killing and tragedy more than it prevents terror attacks. Erdan’s populist policy will lead to preventable funerals.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.