A disturbing and preventable trend is on the rise. The Sharon sub-district police arrested a 52-year-old Petah Tikva man last week accused of shooting his wife to death, firing two bullets at her head and torso, in front of the couple’s daughter.
In March, Dov Tagard, a divorced man from Haifa who worked as a security guard, stabbed his partner and her son to death before fatally shooting his friend and turning the gun on himself.
Last December a 23-year-old Beersheba father of two shot his wife to death along with a man he suspected of having an affair with her.
And in November 2010 a Netanya man shot and seriously injured his wife before shooting himself in a failed murder-suicide attempt – all in front of the couple’s three-year- old daughter.
These incidents are not just domestic violence cases that ended tragically and will inevitably psychologically scar the child witnesses. All four perpetrators are security guards who used their work-issued handguns to murder or attempt to murder their partners. In the most recent case, the police said the man worked as a security guard in a school in Rosh Ha’ayin and carried the gun for work.
While security guards are hardly the only perpetrators of domestic violence – in its annual report on violence against women in Israel, the International Women’s Zionist Organization said that 200,000 women suffered from domestic violence in 2012 and 600,000 children were exposed to it – they are a group whose licensed weapons are meant to be more strictly regulated, but the Public Security Ministry and private security companies are neglecting their duties.
According to the NGO “Gun Free Home,” at least 30 women have been killed in Israel since 2002 by spouses who used guns issued to them as security guards. Another study on Israel’s security industry, which came out in December 2011, revealed that between 2002 and 2010, security guards in possession of a weapon murdered 12 women and 11 men. The study showed that security companies do not follow the law obligating them to collect weapons from their employees at the ends of their shifts.
While the Public Security Ministry requires these companies to secure their weapons in an armory when they are not being used on the job, except in unusual circumstances, they often do not comply with this directive.
The problem also lies with police who do not coordinate their actions with employers. In the Netanya case, the wife had filed a complaint against her husband for domestic violence a year before, and during the investigation police took away his licensed firearm, but when prosecutors closed the case, they returned it to him.
Domestic violence often occurs behind closed doors, as the perpetrator purposefully keeps his rage and his family’s suffering a dark secret. For this reason, it can be difficult for police and neighbors to detect and know when to interfere. But in cases of guards using their licensed weapons after their shifts, the Public Security Ministry must do more preventative work.
A regulation is already on the books stipulating that officers must leave their weapon at their place of employment and not take it home. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch should immediately raise the issue and start enforcing this.
In 2005 the Brinker Committee, an interministerial group led by Police Asst.-Ch. Daniel Brinker, recommended this regulation, as well as stricter training of guards.
This, as well as a more extensive hiring process, is needed to stop weapons from getting into unreliable hands.
Galia Wallach, head of Na’amat, the Histadrut women’s organization, rightly called on the Public Security Ministry and security companies to accept responsibility “for all of the children left as orphans because of the failure to enforce guidelines.”
In response to the string of killings, Aharonovitch met with members of his ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Israel Police on Tuesday. He announced that greater enforcement of safety guidelines for private security companies are a must to reduce the chances that innocent civilians will be hurt in firearms crimes. He also called on local authorities to find solutions to reduce the number of weapons used by guards at schools.
That is encouraging, but if those words are not followed up quickly by action, they will soon turn hollow.