"Magnum 2525," a gun store in the city center of Jerusalem..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Amid a wave of stabbing attacks across Israel and talk of a third intifada, the Public Security Ministry said on Sunday it has seen a sharp rise in civilians either applying or inquiring about renewing permits to obtain firearms.
The ministry said the increase it described as being in “tens of percentage points” is typical for “periods when terrorism is on the rise”, and that they have extended office hours to accommodate the demand.
Israeli politicians and security officials have called on the public to be more vigilant with stabbing attacks on the rise. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has urged residents with gun licenses to keep firearms with them at all times to help prevent these assaults. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has also said that people with permits and firearms and who train regularly may be of help to the police.
The boost in demand was visible in Tel Aviv, where a dozen customers packed the Lahav gun store and shooting range in the city’s south.
Most were permit holders looking to practice or to trade in older guns for newer, lighter models.
American immigrant and IDF veteran who gave his name only as David, said he was picking up his first personal weapon, an Israeli- made Jericho semi-automatic pistol. The Beit Shemesh resident said he works near the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, and felt “anyone who knows how to use a weapon should do what they can now to help.”
“Because we’re in a phase where you don’t know where the next attack is coming from and people are very afraid, a lot of people [with permits] are taking responsibility and are coming in to train on the range to make sure they’re ready,” shop owner Iftach Ben-Yehuda said.
“A person who is responsible, reasonable and knows the rules of can very much increase the strength of the police and the army.”
He said the store has extended shooting range hours to meet the demand.
In addition to dealing with firearms, Ben-Yehuda said he has sold pepper spray to hundreds of people in the past week, many of them parents of women soldiers eager to provide an extra measure of defense against assailants or gun snatchers.
Shaul Derby, who has managed Lahav for the past 57 years, saw the recent rush for firearms certification as much smaller than after terrorist attacks in decades past.
“This is nothing, after the Ma’alot massacre (in 1974) or the Coastal Road Massacre (1978), the line was out the door and down the street,” Derby said.
Despite the increased interest in obtaining weapons, Israel’s gun control regulations seem a little tighter than in the United States. Residents of West Bank settlements may obtain permits, but otherwise gun license are often only issued to people employed by a security or law enforcement agency.
Israel’s minimum age for a permit is 21, with a minimum three year residence in the country. Applicants must also pass tests including background checks before they may order a gun with a onetime supply of 50 bullets.
Israeli gun permit owners must also renew their licenses and test their shooting skills every three years.
The regulations were tightened after the 1995 assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin Assassination.
Afterwards, the second intifada saw a boom in the private security industry and an increase in licensed firearm owners.