Over the last seven months there has been an 88% increase in the amount of women receiving firearms licenses compared to the same seven month period last year, the National Security Ministry said on Sunday morning, as National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's program easing restrictions has progressed.
A significant number of the women who sought firearms, 44%, were residents of Judea and Samaria.
"The policy I've been leading at the National Security Ministry since my entry into the position is to provide firearms licenses to those that meet the criteria so that they can defend themselves and surroundings," said Ben-Gvir. "Women that want to defend themselves and their families is a blessed thing, I'm happy that during my watch we see a large rise in these registrations."
Concerns over the laxing of gun laws
Women's groups have been critical of Ben-Gvir's plans to ease criteria and the registration process, claiming that women and children would be put at greater risk of violence by the proliferation of weapons.
The Israeli Law Professors' Forum For Democracy on July 27 warned that "special attention needs to be given to the great fear about harming women in the family setting."
The plan to help civilians protect themselves and others from terrorists increased the number of arms in the public sphere by tens of thousands, said the forum, and could increase the number of domestic violence, suicide, and crime deaths. Leak of the weapons to criminal elements was a significant worry.
The forum said that more oversight and research needed to be developed to prevent the illegal use of the firearms.
"We are very concerned about the intention to work to expand the scope of private firearm registration," said the forum.
Expanding the qualifications to get a firearms license
Since April, Ben-Gvir has expanded qualifications for firearms licenses for former and current soldiers, reservists, security forces, and emergency workers. In mid-June, this expansion included medic volunteers, former non-infantry combat soldiers, Hesder program participants.
Magen David Adom, ZAKA, and United Hatzalah of Israel volunteers will also have a favorable status for firearm applications after a minimum of a year of service. In April, Ben-Gvir proposed that combat soldiers, firefighters, Shin Bet and Mossad agents, police, and Border Police officers should not have to go through an interview process.
To apply for firearms, Israeli citizens must meet a threshold of eligibility, which factors in military experience, profession, and residency. After a citizen qualifies and applies, they must go through an interview and training process.
The licensing office saw a backlog of applications at the beginning of the year, which Ben-Gvir sought to solve with an expansion of the workforce and a reduction in permit requirements.
By early June, new licenses jumped by 280% compared to the same four-month period in 2022. A total of 11,393 firearms licenses were awarded.