Glaring failures in gun control enforcement in Israel, State Comptroller finds

Public Security Ministry not in line with recent calls by officials to increase regulation and reduce the number of guns on the street.

May 14, 2014 16:06
3 minute read.
Gun [illustrative].

Gun [illustrative] 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri )


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Public Security Ministry officials have neither the tools to enforce gun control regulations nor the mechanisms in place for cooperation with police or Health Ministry and Welfare Ministry officials, the State Comptroller’s Office stated in a report issued this week.

The report, titled “Firearms Permits and Regulation,” highlights a series of failures and policy decisions by the Public Security Ministry’s firearms regulations branch, which it says are not in line with recent calls by government officials to increase regulation and reduce the number of guns on the street.

The report further states that the regulations branch has not formulated a plan to reduce the number of firearms.

The report estimates that 81 percent of the 151,233 licensed gun owners received their permits for justifications that are no longer relevant. These could include security jobs they had in the past or prior areas of residence.

Looking back, the report states that in 2012 a new regulation was passed by the Interior Ministry – then still in charge of firearm permits – which said that someone given a firearms permit even 10 years before does not have to show that the reason for originally receiving the permit is still valid when renewing the permit.

The report says that the decision “does not go hand in hand with government’s policy of reducing firearms.”

Many of the regulations ordered after deadly shootings last year have not been carried out, the report states. For instance, in May 2013, the ministry ruled that permits for more than one firearm will be given only under certain circumstances, to be approved by the head of the police operations branch.

This regulation has not been enforced, and checks to determine if citizens with permits for additional firearms have valid justification for them have not been carried out.

In addition, the report finds that there is no cooperation between the firearms branch and the Health Ministry or the Welfare and Social Services Ministry.

The lack of coordination means that firearms regulators have no way of knowing which people with permits have drug abuse problems or have been reported for family violence issues.

The report also says there is no way of preventing people with firearms permits from receiving prescriptions for medical marijuana.

The lack of coordination is a two-way street the report finds, pointing out that mental health counselors have no way of knowing if their patients also have firearms permits, which could allow them to notify authorities if they think a patient poses a threat to themselves or the public.

The report finds that, nonetheless, there were cases where healthcare professionals recommended that gun permits be canceled for their clients.

In other areas security checks were not carried out, either by official policy or because of manpower issues. The report finds that between 2008 and 2013, all of the gun-license permits issued by organizations in Jerusalem were approved automatically without scrutiny, because the head of supervision at the Jerusalem office had left his position.

In addition, the report states that a regulation put into effect in 2013 requiring that permit applicants have a safe at their house to store their guns has also not been adhered to. According to the report, new applicants do not need to show any proof that they purchased or own a safe; rather, they just need to declare that they have one.

The research for the report was carried out from April to August 2013, following deadly shooting incidents in Beersheba and Jerusalem, where current or former security guards opened fire with guns they were able to acquire because of their jobs.

By the end of 2012, the report states, there were 151,233 private permit owners, in possession of 159,438 guns, in addition to 1,163 organizations in possession of 133,187 firearms.

In response to the report, Israel Police said that they “work in a concerted effort to locate and seize firearms whose permits have expired,” and that over the past year they have ensured that firearms owned by security companies are no longer taken home by employees after their shifts, in keeping with a state regulation.

Altogether, they have reduced by 30,000 the number of firearms in the possession of private security companies, they said.

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