A WOMAN checks out a new pistol at a gun shop in Tel Aviv in 2015.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
The presence of a gun in the home significantly increases the threats to women’s lives, attorney Miriam Salkind of the Israel Women’s Network said Wednesday at a meeting of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and Gender Equality.
The discussion was held in response to the recent gun licensing reform that drastically increased the number of civilians eligible to receive gun licenses.
The new criteria for obtaining a gun license makes hundreds of thousands of IDF infantry unit veterans eligible to receive firearms licenses. In addition, officers and commanders will not be required to return their arms and weapons after they are released from reserve duty.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan argued that the policy will save lives by increasing the number of trained gun owners who know how to operate in situations such as terrorist attacks.
Committee chair MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) appealed to Erdan to freeze the approval of the reform, to expand the number of parties sitting in the supervision and control committee set up by the ministry for the reform, and to wait until the recommendations of the committee.
Last month Erdan established a committee to supervise the procedures for obtaining or renewing gun licenses. The committee will review all the requirements of license applicants, as well as the information they are required to present to licensing officials and the process of conducting personal interviews with applicants. The committee will also examine ways to strengthen the supervision and control of weapons, such as requiring that gun owners install gun safes. The committee is expected to present its recommendations within three months.
But according to Salkind, the committee has “simply yielded to most of the demands of the arms lobby” and is barely tightening the requirements.
“The government is privatizing its duty to protect its citizens, and the privilege of self-defense is apparently reserved for only a part of the public. This reform will provide an opening for another tens of thousands more weapons in the civilian sphere,” Touma-Sliman said.
The head of the Firearm Licensing Department of the Public Security Ministry, Herzl Kavalo, said there has been a serious upgrade of the entire process.
“WE HAVE not only expanded the approvals for license but also the training. There is an exam at the end of the training for receiving a weapon, which is conducted by certified firearms instructors. Women, too, are coming to these tests more and more. These are not weapons for the rich, because every person is entitled to defend themselves,” Kavalo said. He noted that applicants must be checked by both the police and by medical officials.
A police representative added that the police have the authority to immediately seize weapons from anyone who commits an offense. “Weapons do not continue to be carried around by people who have committed crimes,” the representative said.
At the meeting, Salkind presented the position of the Gun-Free Kitchen Tables coalition, a multi-organizational effort led by the Isha L’Isha Feminist Center.
“What is happening in recent times is great lawlessness, which women are already paying for and will further pay... with their lives. Only last Saturday a woman was murdered in Modi’in by security weapons carried by her partner,” Salkind said, referring to a security guard who allegedly killed his wife last week before committing suicide.
“Erdan is doing several things simultaneously that ultimately result in a disproportionate expansion of the arms distribution,” she said.
Erdan has said that the potential for skilled firearms users to have licenses will increase by more than half a million people under the new regulations, including those who are in or are veterans of the security forces and the IDF, as well as volunteers for the Israel Police and emergency and rescue organizations.
In early September, members of the Gun-Free Kitchen Tables coalition submitted two requests to the Public Security Ministry and the Israel Police for information on the number of fatalities related to the expanded criteria, but say they have not yet received a response.
The coalition has demanded that the ministry immediately cancel the new criteria for obtaining gun licenses or suspend their implementation until a thorough examination of private arms licensing policy can be completed. It also demanded that “the ministry determine the criteria for the licensing of civilian weapons (private and organizational) in the framework of secondary legislation (regulations) and not as a minister’s decision.”
Previously, along with other criteria, Israelis could only get a gun only if they had what the Public Security Ministry considered a good reason. Those reasons included working in security or law enforcement or living or working in a settlement where the state had an interest in arming some residents. Former officers of the IDF and other security branches above a certain rank could also get a license.
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