Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has ordered a review of Israel’s gun laws, with the aim of increasing the restrictions placed on gun owners as well as the enforcement of licensing guidelines.
Aharonovitch’s directive followed Monday’s Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting on the matter. The meeting was called following a murder-suicide in Bat Yam last week, which involved a Border Police officer who killed his wife and then himself using his service revolver. The tragedy was the latest in a series of similar shootings involving civilian gun owners, who were licensed to carry weapons through their employers.
The committee’s meeting was held the same day that Itamar Alon, a Beersheba resident who had served in the Border Police and worked as a security guard in the Beersheba school system, opened fire at a local bank, killing four people before taking his own life. In the wake of the shooting, another emergency session was called for Wednesday.
“We will continue to review ways to toughen the criteria [for gun permits] so we can reduce, as much as possible, the number of guns in civilian hands, and prevent a tragedy like the one we witnessed in Beersheba from happening again,” Aharonovitch said Tuesday.
The police investigation into the Beersheba shooting is currently focused on whether the outcome of the robbery could have been prevented. Investigators have concluded that the police counter terrorism unit’s rapid response and decision to storm the bank prevented Alon from killing the woman he was holding hostage.
Police officials voiced concerns that Alon’s act, which many believe was triggered by the bank’s decision to refuse him a loan, will inspire other Israelis in dire financial straits to do the same. “History has shown that some cases repeat themselves. We can only hope that grave financial difficulties won’t lead to the murder of innocent people,” a senior police officer told Israel Hayom.
Also on Tuesday, Aharonovitch ruled that security guards stationed in schools will no longer be allowed to take their guns home with them.
The Public Security Ministry and the police are currently exploring replacing the guns carried by school guards with pepper spray and handheld metal detectors. The Israeli school system employs some 4,500 guards and should the move mature into an official directive, it would take effect at the beginning of the next school year, in September.
The move was inspired by threat assessments indicating an improvement in internal security, as well as the recent rise in reported gun crimes. The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee is expected to debate the issue in the coming weeks.
“We have to strip school guards of their weapons, not just because of the new intelligence assessments, but because more and more schools employ as guards people who are ill-suited for the role,” a senior ministry official said Tuesday.
Gun laws lax?
The Beersheba shooting also prompted the State Comptroller’s Office to move up the scheduled review of the Public Security Ministry’s Firearm Licensing Department.
According to department’s data, some 290,000 Israeli civilians are licensed to carry guns and 130,000 of them obtained permits through their employers. Records pertaining to 2012 indicate that the various security firms in Israel employ some 34,000 guards and have sponsored 43,000 gun permits.
According to Israel’s Firearm Law, which was enacted in 1949 and amended in 1996, anyone seeking a firearm license must first meet the ministry’s due-cause criteria, such as serving in the armed forces, working for an organization that requires carrying a firearm, or residing beyond the Green Line. Applicants are also required to provide an affidavit from their family physician regarding their medical condition and psychiatric history and they must undergo firearms training.
The Firearm Licensing Department also runs background checks on all applicants to screen for anyone with a criminal record. The law states that a gun license must be renewed every three years, subject to all criteria.
The state comptroller’s review is likely to focus on how the regulations concerning the retrieval of firearms from owners whose licenses have expired, or those refused a renewed permit, are enforced.
The police investigation into the Beersheba shooting found that Alon had renewed his gun license in February, after meeting all of the Firearm Licensing Department’s criteria.
The Israel Police declared May a “firearms amnesty month,” allowing anyone in possession of unregistered firearms to surrender or register their weapons to avoid criminal charges.
According to Israeli law, the possession of an illegal firearm is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
This is beyond stupid.
If Israel employees even more draconian anti gun laws, and as a result I lose my right to own a gun. I will never live in Israel again and I just may have a house in a very nice place for sale.