TEL AVIV – Over half a million Israelis are now eligible to receive gun licenses after authorities significantly eased regulations with the stated aim of combating terror.
Any Israeli who has completed level 07 rifle training in the military, which includes hundreds of thousands of veterans of infantry units, can now legally carry firearms.
The old directives meant Israelis needed to prove that owning a firearm was necessary for their safety, for example if they lived in a dangerous area. Those with permits were also required to attend regular training sessions and undergo psychological testing.
The reform also stipulates that officers with the rank of first lieutenant and above will not be required to return their guns upon discharge.
There are currently around 145,000 gun-license holders in Israel at present, excluding soldiers, police and security guards. According to the Public Security Ministry, this number will likely grow by some 40,000 in the near future.
The loosened regulations also allow volunteer police and paramedics to apply for permits.
“Skilled civilians carrying a gun in public contribute to a sense of security, act as an important line of defense against lone-wolf terror attacks and … thus increase public security,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Monday. The new policy, he said, “strikes a balance between the need to defend the public which might be at risk and the need to protect the public from incorrect use of a firearm.”
The lone-wolf terror attacks saw Palestinian individuals carry out stabbing, car-ramming or shooting attacks.
“Many citizens have saved lives during terror attacks, and in the era of ‘lone-wolf’ attacks, the more qualified gun-carrying citizens there are — the better the chance to thwart terror attacks without casualties and reduce the number of casualties,” Erdan said in a statement.
The new policy was criticized by the leader of the left-wing opposition party Meretz.
Guns “are a death machine whose civilian use needs to be reduced as much as possible,” Tamar Zandberg said in a statement. “Instead of dealing with the tremendous amount of illegal weapons on the streets endangering human lives, they are simply increasing the number of gun permits.”