Israel Relaxes Gun Laws After Hamas Attack

Israel Relaxes Gun Laws After Hamas Attack
Israeli soldiers carry the body of a victim of an attack by terrorists from Gaza at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, on Oct. 10, 2023. (Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters)
Katabella Roberts
Updated:
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Israel is easing its gun laws following the unprecedented and bloody attack by the Palestinian group Hamas over the weekend, officials announced on Oct. 8.

Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, that he has directed the Firearms Licensing Division, which is responsible for issuing gun licenses, to undergo an “emergency operation” and broaden gun license standards in the country to “allow as many citizens as possible to arm themselves.”

The emergency operation would go into effect within 24 hours, he said in Sunday’s statement.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), there is no clear right to carry a gun in Israel and nothing similar to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution exists.

“In theory, the policy is very strict. No one may own or carry a gun without showing a reason to do so. A special permit by the Interior Ministry is then required. The permit must have the approval of the police and include information about the owner and the gun type,” the DOJ states.

Gun ownership in Israel also remains low, the BBC reports, with roughly 2 percent of the population owning a firearm compared to around 30 percent of the U.S. population.
Those who wish to carry a gun must be aged 27 or over, live or work in a location considered to be “high risk“ and undergo various firearm training, including theoretical exam and practical shooting requirements if they have not completed national service or compulsory military service.

Israeli citizens who are permanent residents of Israel and have completed compulsory military service may obtain a gun at the age of 18 while those who have completed two years of of national service can obtain a firearm at the age of 21.

Additional Changes to Gun Laws

However, under the new rules, Israeli citizens who meet the requirements to apply for a license under the “self-defense test” and do not have a criminal or medical record will now only need to have a telephone interview rather than a physical in-person interview and will also be approved to carry the weapon within a week, according to Mr. Ben-Gvir.

Those eligible to carry a weapon under the self-defense tests include those residing in an eligible settlement, officers in the rank of lieutenant and above, and those serving in special units or as firefighters, policemen, and workers and volunteers in the rescue forces, among others, according to Mr. Ben-Gvir.

Elsewhere, the newly expanded gun measures will allow Israeli citizens who received a conditional permit to purchase a firearm but did not purchase one during the year 2023 to be able to purchase one now without the need to submit a new application, even if their conditional license has expired.

The exemption will apply to about 4,000 citizens, according to Mr. Ben-Gvir.

Additionally, another 1,800 Israelis who in the past six months returned their guns to the government because they failed to take a training renewal course will be allowed to get their weapons back.

Netanyahu Declares War

Finally, beginning on Oct. 10, conditional permits to carry firearms will be issued with a permit allowing Israelis to purchase up to 100 bullets instead of 50, Mr. Ben-Gvir said.

“I thank the members of the Firearms Licensing Division, the Civil Response Department of the Israel Police and the employees of the Ministry of Health for the very important commitment that will allow as many citizens as possible to arm themselves and protect themselves and their environment when necessary,” the National Security Minister said in Sunday’s statement.

The expanded gun laws come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas following its surprise attack on the nation while citizens celebrated a major Jewish holiday, Sukkot.

At least 150 Israelis have been taken hostage by Hamas fighters from border towns and kibbutzim near Gaza, according to reports, while more than 1,000 people—including Israelis and Palestinians—have died since the surprise attack was launched by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization the United States.

The assault has raised questions regarding how Israel and its Defence Forces failed to act on potential intelligence about the planned attack, although Mr. Netanyahu has not yet publicly addressed those concerns.

However, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesman, told The Associated Press on Monday that the public deserves an explanation.

Still, the military official said, that explanation will likely not come any time soon.

“First, we fight, then we investigate,” he told the publication.

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