Israel has learned that strict gun laws were counterproductive the hard way.
By Patricia Adams and Lawrence Solomon, published by The Epoch Times
While most governments of democracies, and all governments of tyrannies, strive to strip their law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms, Israel now does the opposite. Get guns, keep them loaded, and be ready to shoot when out in public, it tells its citizens. Because police can’t be everywhere at all times, there’s no alternative to a vigilant citizenry capable of taking down terrorists.
The logic of Israel’s aggressive new policy was on full display in Jerusalem on Feb. 10, in a terrorist ramming attack at a bus stop that killed three, including two children aged 6 and 8, and injured four. Often, a terrorist will ram his vehicle into a crowd, then leave his vehicle to attack others with whatever weapons he might have. Only Friday, the terrorist didn’t have an opportunity to continue his rampage. As video footage from the scene shows, several bystanders quickly pulled out their guns and killed the terrorist before he could leave his vehicle.
Until recently, the government prevented people on numerous criteria from obtaining a firearm license, even though they felt that they and their families might be at risk from the many random attacks that occur. To remove impediments to obtaining a permit—the current backlog of Israelis who have applied for a permit now stands at 17,000—Israeli’s newly elected government is doubling the licensing department’s staff, increasing its hours of operation, and doubling the number of interviews it conducts per hour to determine a citizen’s eligibility to carry a firearm. Interviews will be waived altogether for those who previously served in the security forces or are now working in the Fire and Rescue Service. As a result, Israel expects to process between 5,000 and 8,000 licenses per month.
While all Israelis could fall prey to a terrorist attack, synagogue-goers have been at particular risk, partly because Jews don’t ordinarily carry guns on the Sabbath. On Jan. 27 in Jerusalem, a 21-year-old terrorist went on a shooting spree as congregants were leaving a Sabbath synagogue service, leaving seven people dead and three others injured. None of the congregants was armed.
The Sabbath shooting led the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Police to exhort rabbis across the country to encourage congregants to stay armed on the Sabbath, and also to bring their weapons to synagogues.
“In deliberation with prominent rabbis and on the recommendation of relevant police authorities, I appeal to the rabbis of Israel to instruct their communities that everyone who has a license to carry a firearm should carry that firearm with them on Shabbat, especially during prayer times in the synagogues,” he said, adding that terrorists have historically shown a preference for attacking religious neighborhoods and synagogues.
Arming the citizenry entails the risk that civilians might inadvertently shoot innocents in the confusion that could arise during a terrorist attack, as initially appeared to be the case after Friday’s car ramming, when a TV station erroneously reported that one of the hospitalized may have been shot by an armed bystander. So far, that risk is one that the Israeli public seems willing to accept, given the far greater risk that a terrorist can kill at will in the many minutes it would ordinarily require for the police to arrive at the scene of an attack.
In contrast to the seven deaths that occurred on Jan. 27 when synagogue goers were all unarmed, the following day at a tourist site a terrorist managed only to wound two passersby before two armed civilians brought him down.
“This demonstrates the importance of having a large number of citizens who carry a personal weapon,” said Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir. “We have an obligation to speed up the licensing process and reduce the amount of bureaucracy, for the sake of our children, for the sake of the lives of us all.”
Until a few years ago, Israel’s gun-control laws were strict, with government policy aimed at reducing the number of guns held by private citizens, thinking that a proliferation of guns would lead to violent acts. Citizens needed to be 21 years old, pass a psychological test, have a proficiency with weapons that exceeded what was required of many in the armed forces, and be able to convince the authorities of their need for a gun. Even if they convinced the authorities of a need—a desire for self-defense didn’t do it—they were generally limited to one pistol and 50 cartridges.
Israel learned that strict gun laws were counterproductive the hard way—after innocents were being stabbed on an almost daily basis during the 2015 “Stabbing Intifada.” By 2018, a member of the Israeli Knesset struck a nerve when he stated that “a civilian carrying a weapon is more of a solution than a threat, and doubles as assistance for the security forces,” noting that “in 11 attacks in just the Jerusalem area, they neutralized the threat.”
The government has since been reversing its gun controls, tentatively at first, forcefully now, as it realizes the best defense lies in the capabilities and courage of its citizenry.
Read the original article in full at the publisher’s website here
Patricia Adams and Lawrence Solomon are directors at the Toronto-based Probe International.
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