Gun ownership and violence on the rise in Israel

Police: More than 3,600 weapons have been confiscated and thousands of people arrested in the first half of 2019.

July 30, 2019 17:11
2 minute read.
Gun ownership and violence on the rise in Israel

An Israel Police officer discovers an illegal firearm. . (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

A day after the violent death of an Israeli father over a parking space in Ramle sent shock waves through Israel, an organization fighting to eliminate gun violence has warned that a less restrictive gun-ownership policy by the Israeli government has led to an increase in gun ownership and violence.

Rela Mazali of the Gun Free Kitchen Tables Campaign, a coalition of women’s organizations working to eliminate gun violence, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday  that until recently there wasn’t a widespread interest in civilians arming themselves because of a very restrictive policy on gun ownership, but the policy has recently changed to have far less restrictive requirements.

“As of last summer, guns are available to 600,000 potential applicants,” she said, adding that in recent years civilians have been encouraged to arm themselves.

While “the army has cut down on soldiers bringing home guns in order to decrease suicides, and has succeeded in that by and large, the army is going one way and the civilian world is going the other,” Mazali said.

“We know from elsewhere in the world that when there are more guns, there are more killings, mostly of women, and there are more suicides,” she told the Post.

According to Mazali, the police do not publish data on gun crime and “because there are no statistics, there is no awareness that it is a social or public health issue like in other countries.

“Gun violence in Israel is unseen by Jewish Israelis inured by weapons [being] around or shooting terrorists on site... but among Palestinian citizens of Israeli, there is an awareness because there are a lot of unregistered guns [coming] into the community through weak and selective enforcement... In their communities, there’s been a lot of work done and it’s a very big issue,”she said.

More than 3,600 weapons have been confiscated and thousands of people arrested in the first half of 2019, the Israeli Police announced on Tuesday, the day after the parking space killing.

According to the Police, 3,661 weapons were confiscated and 2,704 suspects in shooting incidents were arrested, including 1,862 suspects from northern Israel. Another 842 people were arrested for using firearms in populated areas.

A total of 528 indictments against suspects have been filed.

In comparison, a total of 3,568 cases were opened in weapons dealing and arms in the previous year, with 3,447 suspects being arrested nationwide.  Of those indicted, 1,269 suspects were found guilty of weapons dealing and other illegal activities.

“Police operations took place across the country as a result of quality intelligence and undercover operations,” read a statement released on Tuesday, adding that “police activities also took place, not just against the buying and selling of illegal weapons but also against suspects that shoot inside villages.”

According to the police, operations in which officers searched and seized weapons over the past year focused on the Arab community, where “new technology and new methods” were used leading to 80% of all weapons seized being in Arab communities.

Among them were 341 pistols, 65 high-powered weapons including submachine guns, 256 automatic weapons, 123 grenades, dozens of other explosive devices and ammunition.

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