April 24, 2018

Despite What Gun Rights Supporters Say, Israeli Gun Laws are Really Strict

Sam Rigante ‘21


Gun rights advocates will often recommend that the United States look at Israel’s gun laws for counsel. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s CEO, has said “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and praised Israel’s loose gun laws.
Israel has only experienced two school shootings in the past 40 years, acts of Palestinian terror. In 1974, 22 adults and children were killed in an attempted terrorist attack and in 2008, eight were killed in a seminary.
The argument proposed by guns rights advocates usually cites Israel’s loose gun laws as an example. They reason that since Israel has loose gun laws and since there are hardly any school or mass shootings there, guns must not be the primary issue.
This argument, however, is flawed.
Israel has some of the lowest gun ownership rates in the developed world, ranking at No. 81 in a 2007 comparison of private gun ownership rates in 178 countries. Israel also rejects more than 40 percent of potential gun applicants, a higher rate than any other country in the western world.
The process of purchasing a gun in Israel is highly complicated. Potential buyers must join shooting clubs or otherwise provide a legitimate reason for needing a gun. For example, if a buyer lives in a dangerous settlement area. In addition, the minimum legal age for gun purchase is 27 unless the customer has previously served in the IDF.
After that, one must obtain a doctor’s note affirming no history of mental illness or drug abuse. Gun owners must install gun safes in their homes and submit criminal and mental health history to authorities.
Even when Israelis finally obtain guns, they can only purchase a limited number of bullets, usually no more than 50. Israelis must demonstrate competence in firing ranges before being able to take guns home.
However, about 40 percent of potential security guards fail the firing range test. If you fail, you must reapply and undergo the entire process a second time.
Every firearm owner in Israel is also required to go through training in order to receive a gun. Security personnel must complete training every four months.
In America, the process of obtaining a gun is much simpler. Buyers are only required to pass an instant background check done through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The NICS program looks for any criminal convictions and checks for history of domestic violence as well as immigration status.
This background system, however, does not apply to all gun buyers. Only those buying from a federally-licensed dealer are subject to these checks. Anyone buying from a private party, a third-party seller, or a gun show is not required to undergo background checks.
Israeli firearm training instructor Sharon Gat was told in a CBS interview of a perception that all Israelis own firearms.
“Very false,” Gat said, regarding the American belief on Israel’s guns. “Gun laws in America are much more loose than gun laws in Israel.”
Israeli gun laws differ from American gun laws in that they are designed to keep amateurs from obtaining and using firearms. Even after serving three years in the military, the Israeli government restricts firearm permits to a select few: security workers, residents of the West Bank, hunters and people who transport valuables and explosives.
Israeli schools, which have had far fewer shootings than American schools, are also looked upon as an example. But the only people who have firearms at schools are the security guards and there is at least one security guard in every school. No teachers are armed.
Israel principal Nati Stern, in an interview with CBS news, says he believes security guards “provides us with everything we need.”

“This is the job of the police,” Stern said, referring to how it is not teachers’ duties to protect the children. “This is the job of the state.”

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