by: David Harris-Gershon on May 21st, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Yesterday, an Israeli man indiscriminately killed four people at a local bank before shooting himself, shocking a nation not used to such lone gunman incidents.
One day later, government officials responded by enacting tighter gun control measures:
One day after a Be’er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Sunday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.
In addition, a panel will be appointed to consider administering mental and physical examinations to license applicants.
While Israel doesn’t have to contend with the Second Amendment, and doesn’t suffer from such a hyperbolic gun culture as ours, it is a country full of armed soldiers. A country with citizens who carry guns for real and conjured security reasons. A country with leaders who continuously place their fingers on the trigger, particularly when targeting Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
In short, this is a militaristic society. A society that understands conflict. A society that understands what it means to grip the barrel of a rifle and take aim.
However, despite this – or perhaps because of it – it is also a society that has generally treated gun ownership quite delicately. It is a country that, despite its own security concerns, stands in complete opposition to the U.S. when it comes to gun control.
Permit requirements are strict and tend to be rather narrow, unless you are a Jewish settler or work in a proven, high-risk profession. Which is why gun ownership rates in Israel are among the lowest in the Western world, and is one thirteenth that of the U.S. (In a country of over 7,000,000 residents, there are currently about 160,000 legal gun permits.)
Why? Put simply: Israel chooses to leave security to its professionals. And not to a gun-wielding citizenry.
Which is why after a lone-gunman shooting, such as the one which happened yesterday, Israel’s response was not an NRA style call to “Arm the victims!” Rather, it was a call to get more guns off the streets.
It’s a call America would do well to heed.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Those who know my writing understand my critical take on the occupation, the settlement enterprise, and the unequal treatment Palestinians receive in many arenas. This inequality obviously extends itself to gun ownership in Israel – Jewish settlers are granted firearm permits precisely because they live amidst Palestinians.
However, I’m intentionally not making this aspect a focus of this piece, as my primary purpose is to contrast Israel’s response to a mass shooting with our own – not to engage in a meta-analysis of the conflict.