Following a pair of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem over the weekend, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir revived the proposal to ease the process for Israeli citizens to obtain firearms licenses. Many may wonder what Israel's current gun laws are, and what is difficult about the process at the moment.
"It's not as difficult as it sounds," said Yehuda Elcharar of the law firm Decker, Pex, Ofir & Co, who specializes in helping those seeking to obtain licenses. "Those that go through it see that it's much easier than they thought."
There is no right to bear arms in Israel, but Israeli citizens who have lived in the state for at least three years and have basic Hebrew knowledge can earn a firearm if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
Who is eligible to get a gun license in Israel?
"For example, national or military service," said Elcharar. "Not just those that are familiar with weapons are eligible."
However, service as a current or past officer or NCO in the IDF can make one more eligible, as can serving as a standard 07 combat ranking and above or service in a special unit.
Professions that may require firearms, such as security guards, police, shooting instructors, and sports marksmen are also more eligible. Professions in which people may be placed in dangerous situations such as medics, paramedics, and firefighters also have eligibility.
"Those that live in eligible towns," are also more eligible, said Elcharar. "Residents that live in dangerous locations, or past the Green Line." Those that work in these areas are also eligible.
Who can’t apply for an Israeli firearm license?
Age is also a precondition for eligibility. A citizen or permanent resident who has completed military service can apply at the age of 18, and those who have completed national service at 21. A citizen who has completed neither can apply at 27, and permanent residents who have done neither service can apply at 45.
For those with criminal convictions, or were dishonorably discharged from the military, it can be more difficult to get a firearm. Elcharar said that those who don't live or work in areas designated for eligibility can also have difficulty. This is where he's helped many clients.
Israelis can check their total eligibility for a firearm through an online calculator on the National Security Ministry website.
Step-by-step: How do you apply for the gun license?
Elcharar explained that a person seeking a firearm needs to send the documents that the government requires through an Internet form, which includes a health declaration by a doctor.
"Afterwards the applicant is invited to an interview – the interview is really short, it can take even a minute or two -- at the National Security Ministry," said Elcharar. In the meeting the applicant is asked about his need for a firearm.
From there, the applicant is given permission to apply to a gun range for lectures, training and practice of a few hours. You can train on the weapon that you purchased.
After training is finished the training firm sends permission to the government that you've successfully completed your training, and after a few days, you receive a temporary license. With time, this will become a permanent license.
How do you buy a gun in Israel?
Purchasing a firearm depends on the type of license. The National Security Ministry says on its website that in most cases the permit allows for a pistol and 50 bullets.
Elcharar said that one can purchase the firearm from a licensed retailer such as at the firing range, but also from a private person. This is done through a lawyer who writes up a bill of purchase, similar to that done with private car sales.
"It's important to note that a gun license isn't like a driver's license. I have a driver's license and I can drive any vehicle that's suitable. It's not like this for a gun license. It's for the specific tool."Yehuda Elcharar
However, "It's important to note that a gun license isn't like a driver's license. I have a driver's license and I can drive any vehicle that's suitable," said Elcharar. "It's not like this for a gun license. It's for the specific tool." This isn't just to a specific type of pistol, but the permit is tied to a specific weapon and its serial code.
Once you have a firearm, you need to keep a small safe to house the weapon. In some places, you'll need to temporarily relinquish your weapon, such as a courthouse.
A rise in gun permit applications after terrorism wave
Ben-Gvir's call for more firearms in the hands of civilians comes not only after the deadly shooting attack in Neveh Ya'acov that left seven dead, but a shooting near Jerusalem's City of David which saw two injured but was cut short by armed civilians.
"I want more weapons on the streets so that the citizens of Israel can defend themselves. We saw it in today's event in the City of David that when citizens have weapons they can protect themselves," Ben-Gvir said on Saturday night. "I will raise it in the cabinet, to bring more people to the firearms licensing division and allow us to give the citizens who want and qualify for weapons, and I want also to ease the criteria. Seventeen thousand citizens are waiting for gun licenses."
Elcharar said that "After a wave of terrorism and after an attack like this, there's an increase in requests."
After Shabbat, he said that the requests increased again, and he personally heard of people applying for the first time.
He noted that there were still many requests from the previous wave of terrorism, and there isn't enough manpower to address them. Adding more manpower and removing criteria such as living in non-dangerous places may be how Ben-Gvir allows more civilians to obtain weapons.
Some people worry that Ben-Gvir's proposal will lead to more gun crime, at a time in which illegal guns have flooded the street.
"This is a move that could seriously endanger the lives of thousands of women in Israel who live in a cycle of violence," said Hagit Pe'er, chairperson of the woman's rights organization Na'amat. "We call on the prime minister and the cabinet not to make a hasty decision before this issue is answered and before they hear the position of the professionals. A solution must be found that takes into account the protection of women."