In high contrast to nearly every other non-U.S. country, Israel passed a law on Monday that would expand the number of citizens eligible for firearms ownership licenses.
As justification for the new policy, Israel’s Security Minister Gilad Erdan cited increased protection from “lone wolf” terrorist attacks.
“Many civilians saved lives during terror attacks and in an era of ‘lone terrorism.’ The more skilled civilians carrying weapons, the greater the chance of thwarting attacks without casualties and reducing the number of casualties,” Erdan said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Previously, Israel operated under a system similar to the “good cause” scheme for concealed carry licenses in states like California. Israelis could only purchase a firearm if they worked in an occupation the Public Security Ministry deemed would necessitate one. Civilians could also obtain a license if they lived in areas like the West Bank in which the state had an interest arming certain residents.
Now, both current and former members of the security forces and IDF, as well as volunteers for the Israel Police and emergency and rescue organizations, will have an opportunity to fulfill the training requirements and obtain a license to own a firearm. The new policy will expand the number of Israelis eligible to own a firearm by 500,000 people, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Erdan believes the relaxation of gun control laws will be appropriately balanced by more stringent training requirements to obtain a license. Erdan also led the effort to increase the punishment for those who use firearms illegally.
“The new policy balances the need to protect the public who may be at risk and the need to protect the public from misuse of guns,” he stated.
Amir Ohana, a member of the same ring-wing political party to which Erdan belongs, praised the move.
“As someone who had worked since his first day in the Knesset to ease the government’s restrictions on the most basic right – the right to self-defense – I congratulate my friend Erdan, who finally, in contrast to his predecessors, is working for the benefit of the citizens and enables responsible and skilled citizens to serve as a power multiplier for the security authorities,” he said.
“The time has come for a turning point in a life-threatening policy,” Ohana said, remarking that in recent years Israelis have had to defend themselves with guitars, shopping carts, selfie sticks, pizza trays and umbrellas.
“A civilian who has no criminal and/or relevant medical record, and serves or served in reserves, should be able to defend himself and others – such a person is not the problem, but in many cases the solution. Today we took a significant step on the way toward that,” said Ohana.
Not everyone, of course, supports the new policy. Left-wing politician Dov Henin slammed the move as a “bad fad” imported from the United States.
“Welcome to the war zone,” he said. “More weapons mean more violence, more accidents, and more wounded and dead. The trend should be the opposite: a reduction in the presence of weapons in the civilian space in Israel – which is too high, and certainly not an expansion of it.”
“Like many bad fads that the right in Israel imports from the right in the United States, in this case too, it is better to stop before starting. Before there will be massacres here in schools, and before there will be another intolerable increase in the murders of women in [their] homes,” Henin said.