Israel Loosens Gun Restrictions Amid Hamas Threat

Israel, a small democracy in the Middle East, faces security challenges with terrorist threats at its borders. Despite these threats, Israel has stricter gun-control laws than most parts of the United States, where the right to keep and bear arms is constitutionally recognized under the Second Amendment.

Following a horrific terrorist attack by Hamas from Gaza, Israel’s government recently took steps to make it somewhat easier for its citizens to obtain firearms for self-defense.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Israeli Minister of National Security, announced an emergency declaration in Hebrew aimed at “allowing as many citizens as possible to arm themselves.” Only around 1.5 percent of the civilian population holds a gun license.

Emergency Gun Policy Ben-Gvir’s emergency measures for the Firearm Licensing Department were implemented within 24 hours.

The requirement to demonstrate a “need” to own and carry a firearm remains unchanged. However, those eligible to apply for a license under the “self-defense test” can now conduct the necessary interview over the phone rather than in person. Under this new directive, applicants will receive license approval within a week.

While citizens can still purchase only one handgun, the limit on the number of rounds of ammunition has been raised from 50 to 100.

According to the minister, approximately 4,000 citizens who had applied for a conditional permit in 2022 but let their licenses expire before using them can now purchase firearms. Additionally, around 1,800 individuals who returned their guns to the government in the past six months can retrieve their weapons due to not completing a training renewal course.

The criteria for applying for a gun license in Israel remain the same as before the attack. Eligibility is extended to those living or working in settlement areas and individuals in professions that require firearms, such as security guards, police officers, or firefighters. Active-duty military personnel, military veterans of a certain rank, and special forces operatives are also eligible.

Applicants must provide references, prove residency for three years, meet age requirements (based on military service and residency), submit a health declaration from a doctor, and demonstrate a basic knowledge of Hebrew.

Applicants must also pass an interview, purchase a firearm, pay a licensing fee, and several hours of training at a shooting range. Even after fulfilling all these requirements, individuals can still be denied a license based on criminal convictions, drug use, or specific mental health conditions.

Individuals who no longer meet eligibility criteria must notify the Firearm Licensing Department and deposit their firearm and license at a police station within 72 hours.

The complexity of the application process may explain why only 140,000 out of Israel’s 9 million citizens hold permits.

Gun Rights Advocate Ben-Gvir, who has advocated for increased civilian gun ownership since taking office earlier in the year, has tried to streamline the licensing process. He expanded the pool of qualified applicants to include more veterans and medical volunteers and added staff to process licenses more efficiently.

By early June, new licenses had surged by 280 percent compared to the same four-month period in 2022, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.
In August, Ben-Gvir highlighted that his policies had led to an 88 percent increase in women receiving firearms licenses, emphasizing the importance of self-defense for all citizens.

The government’s swift response to ease gun-control laws and promote the right to self-defense is a fundamental principle transcending borders and deeply ingrained in the human spirit.