Israel eases gun regulations following lone-wolf attacks

Vastavam web: Israel has changed its gun regulations to enable hundreds of thousands more civilians to apply for licences, a move authorities say will increase security but others argue will stoke violence. The shift in policy, announced by the public security ministry late yesterday, means that up to 600,000 Israelis could apply for gun licences, a dramatic increase on the current 140,000 civilians with permits.

A source in the public security ministry, however, estimated that only 35,000 people will be interested in applying for gun licences under the new regulations. A number of people have been shot by accident, however, in the chaos resulting from such attacks, while Israeli security personnel have in some instances been accused of excessive force. “Many civilians saved lives during attacks and, in an age of ‘lone-wolf terror’, the more trained civilians carrying arms, the higher the chances of thwarting attacks and minimising casualties,” Erdan said in a statement.

Under the new regulations, any Israeli who had extensive infantry combat training can apply for a gun licence. Police volunteers, medics and former military officers will also be eligible, the statement said. Prior to the change, the main criterion for a permit — besides professions such as hunter or diamond merchant — was one’s place of residence.

Settlers or other Israelis working in the occupied West Bank tend to receive licences. It is common to see Israeli settlers in remote West Bank outposts openly carrying rifles. “There’s no intention to reach a situation like in the United States,” he told public radio on Tuesday. “Here we conduct background checks on people’s past, their health, including mental health — you need permits from the health ministry and police.”

Erdan’s move was met with criticism from left-wing politicians who expressed fear an increase in gun ownership could lead to more violence. Dov Hanin, a Jewish lawmaker from the mainly Arab Joint List, said that Erdan’s plan would lead to more guns in Arab towns, where unlicensed weapons are already a serious problem.