The government will work with all relevant public and private bodies in order to reduce the number of privately owned firearms in the country, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Tuesday, the day after Itamar Alon, a former security guard, used his firearm to kill four people before taking his own life in a Beersheba bank branch.

“Over the past decade the number of weapons permits has been reduced from 300,000 to 160,000, and now we are working to reduce the number of people holding weapons permits by 10,000 per year.

“We will continue to examine the possibility of making the criteria for weapons permits stricter, in order to reduce as much as possible the number of citizens holding weapons who don’t need them and in order to prevent another tragedy like the one we saw yesterday in Beersheba,” Aharonovitch said.

The minister’s comments came during a meeting he held with officials from the police operations branch and members of his ministry, during which they entertained a number of options for reducing the number of privately owned firearms and firearm permits.

These included ensuring that every company receive a special permit approved by the police for each and every firearm their employees take home after work, requiring those renewing weapons permits to prove that they have a need for the weapon, and allowing those with permits to possess only a single gun, among others.

During the meeting, the decision was made to launch a special task force to examine the stringency of the medical and mental tests given to people applying for permits.

“The security reality in Israel over the past decade has created a large number of licenses to be issued, and it is our intention to reduce this amount through the right balance.”

In order to get a firearms license in Israel, someone must be over 21 years old, a resident of Israel for more than three years, and pass a mental and physical health exam, as well as background checks by the Public Security Ministry.

According to Yaakov Amit, the head of the Public Security Ministry’s firearms licensing department, there are now around 170,000 privately owned firearms in Israel, far less than there were before the Rabin assassination, after which the government launched efforts to reduce the number of firearms licenses in the country.

Asked about how Alon could still have a firearm when his license had expired and about the related legal issues therein, the Justice Ministry denied any connection to the issue and said that issues regarding gun licenses were the responsibility of the Public Security Ministry or the police.

Pressed about the fact that the controversy does implicate legal issues for which the ministry might have responsibility to provide guidance or oversight, the spokesman said that the Knesset passes laws and that the ministry is not responsible for overseeing every law.

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