More skilled citizens with guns are needed to back up the police in the fight against terrorism, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday at the inaugural meeting of the Knesset Caucus on Firearms Policy.
Erdan said there are “hundreds of thousands of potential terrorists who can go out with a knife, screwdriver, handgun or pistol to try to perpetrate acts of terrorism throughout the country...
There is no way to stop every terrorist attack because of the number of potential terrorists who do not need an explosives laboratory to create bombs. A knife is enough for them.”
Because there cannot be an armed policeman for every meter of the country, Erdan said he wanted to see skilled citizens with guns supporting the police.
“It is firstly the police’s responsibility to defend residents, and if we want to look at citizens as doubling the force, we must examine it wisely through appropriate training,” he said, adding that the current training is not enough.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud), who founded the caucus, said:“We cannot accept a situation in which citizens of Israel are defending themselves in the street with umbrellas and shopping carts,” referring to some of the ways Israelis have staved off terrorist attacks in recent months.
“The personal security of Israeli citizens is under attack,” he said. “This attack did not start five months ago; rather, it began when the Jewish People returned to its land.”
Ohana called for a gradual easing of the conditions for reservists who do not have a criminal record or mental health issues to receive gun licenses.
“The goal, at the end of the process, is to increase the feeling of security of Israeli citizens,” he stated.
MK Nava Boker (Likud) suggested that anyone who served in an elite unit in the army and is trained to use a firearm should be able to borrow a gun from a police station for self-defense.
“The security situation requires us to think creatively in order to strengthen the feeling of security among Israeli citizens,” she said.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), however, attended the caucus meeting to warn that “there is a danger that too many civilian-owned guns will cost more lives than it will save.”
“The lives of women and children who were murdered at home or people who committed suicide because of the availability of guns are not worth less than the lives of victims of terror,” Zandberg said following the meeting.
The Meretz MK expressed concern that the caucus members were not taking this matter into consideration, calling them “trigger-happy.”
“The way to deal with a security problem is not to give guns to civilians and tell them to work it out on their own,” she said.
Referring to mass shootings in the US, where gun control is looser than in Israel, Zandberg said: “The moment guns are allowed, we can’t know where things will go. Guns, first of all, are used to kill.”
Last week, the Knesset approved, in a first reading, a Public Security Ministry bill to allow security guards to carry their firearms outside of working hours to bolster the police’s terrorism-fighting efforts.
Currently, Israelis may only get a gun if they have a reason, such as if they work in security or law enforcement, or if they live in a settlement in which the state has an interest in arming some residents. In addition, former IDF officers above a certain rank can get a license.
Other requirements to receive a license are that one must be over 21 years old and a resident of Israel for more than three years; undergoing a mental and physical health exam; taking a shooting course and test at a licensed gun range, which must be done regularly when the license is renewed; passing a Public Security Ministry background check.
The licensing process may take several months.
Once a licensee orders a firearm, he or she may get a one-time supply of 50 bullets, which may not be renewed.Ben Hartman contributed to this report.