Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir intends to actuate a five-fold increase in firearms licenses, in response to deadly Palestinian terror attacks in Jerusalem late January.
By Erin Viner
Israel’s Firearm Licensing Department has been instructed to speed up the issuance of new permits from around 2,000 a month to 10,000, said a statement issued by Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit political faction.
Many Israelis are familiar with guns through the country’s near-universal compulsory military service, but until now, those wishing to their own weapons in civilian life were required to meet several strict government restrictions. Licensing has been conditional on completing firearms training, and acquisition has been limited to pistols in the majority of cases.
Seven Israeli civilians were killed by an Arab gunman 27 January. The following day, two others were severely injured in another shooting attack by a young Arab teen who opened fire on a group of passersby in the City of David archeological site, before an armed civilian fired back, wounding him.
Ben-Gvir’s directive is part of new counter-terror measures declared by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following an emergency Security Cabinet session convened to address the twin attacks in the capital.
“While we are not seeking escalation, we are prepared for any possibility. Our answer to terrorism is an iron fist and a powerful, swift and precise response,” stated the Israeli leader, as he outlined the series of steps including the expedition of firearm permits to citizens.
Pointing out that only a small percentage of the 3,000 mobile volunteers for the ZAKA emergency service nationwide possess firearms to end ongoing attacks, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated, “Imagine if they and others were armed. Of course, this would significantly increase the response capability because as we have seen, time and again, including yesterday (28 January) in the City of David, that heroic, armed and trained civilians save lives.”
It is not unusual to see IDF soldiers carrying service weapons in public, nor armed civilians – both of which are attributed with ending numerous terror attacks in progress.