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Following Terrorist Attack, Israel Relaxes Gun Laws and Arms Civilians

Monday, October 16, 2023

Following Terrorist Attack, Israel Relaxes Gun Laws and Arms Civilians

Following an unprecedented terrorist attack on civilians that indiscriminately targeted even the elderly, women, and children, Israel has loosened its gun laws and is distributing firearms to civilians. As of press time, the number of victims killed in the terrorist attack was over 1,300, including at least 27 American citizens.

According to the Times of Israel, on October 10, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced a plan to arm civilian security teams in towns near the country’s borders. The report explained that the Ministry of National Security, “is purchasing 10,000 rifles to arm civilian security teams, specifically those in towns close to Israel’s borders around the country, as well as mixed Jewish-Arab cities and West Bank settlements.” The ministry also intends to equip these civilian teams with bulletproof vests and helmets.

Explaining that the Israeli government will expand civilian security teams to new areas, Gvir noted, “We will turn the world upside down so that towns are protected. I have given instructions for massively arming the civilian security teams to provide solutions for towns and cities, and so as not to leave towns unprotected.”

The item also reported that a move three years ago to limit the availability of some types of firearms civilian security teams previously had access to left some of these teams fighting off heavily armed terrorists with pistols. The piece explained,

Approximately three years ago, the IDF began taking away firearms from some of these security teams due to the repeated theft of such weapons.

Hebrew news outlets reported on the problem back in 2021, and members of some of the teams have told the media in the last few days that they were essentially unarmed during Hamas’s invasion.

Members of such a team told the Calcalist newspaper on Sunday that they had engaged Hamas terrorists armed with just pistols, while the terrorists bore assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank missiles.

“The IDF took our rifles recently, they left us with just a few. We repelled a Hamas commando terror cell with just pistols,” one said.

Aside from formal efforts by the Israeli government to get the means of protection into citizens’ hands, there has been renewed interest in private firearm acquisition.

On October 11, the Jerusalem Post ran an article titled, “Nearly 8,000 Israelis request firearm licenses amid Hamas war.” In response to the high demand, the National Security Ministry is increasing the staff at its firearm licensing department.

Further, the item explained that Gvir is making it easier for civilians to obtain firearm licenses, instituting something closer to a shall-issue licensing regime. The news outlet reported,

According to the ministry's updated conditions, any Israeli citizen interested in obtaining a permit, either for self-defense or because they are serving in the IDF, will be entitled to a gun license, provided that they have medical approval, police approval, and passed the exams for carrying private firearms.

Another way the licensing process is being expedited is that according to the Jerusalem Post, “those interested will only have to undergo a quick phone interview, rather than having to appear in person, after which the permit will be issued within a week's time.”

Gvir explained, “Every city resident will be able to get an armament license… We are facing operation Guardian of the Walls 2, so we will be ensuring that we are prepared, with guns on every street corner.”

Reporting from American firearm news outlet The Reload noted two other key changes to Israel’s firearm licensing rules, explaining that one “allows anyone who had a permit to purchase a firearm in 2023 but didn’t do so before the license expired to buy a gun without going through the process.” Further, “another 1,800 citizens would also be allowed to retrieve a gun they were forced to give up in the last six months because the owner didn’t get ‘refresher training or renewal training.’”

Israeli gun rights activists have been vocal about the need for civilian firearm ownership in the wake of the terrorist attack. On October 10, the Times of Israel published a piece titled, “As Hamas war rages, personal firearm activists see surge in interest.”

Referencing Israel’s relatively strict firearms laws, activist Rabbi Raz Blizovsky said, “People are changing their opinion, and now there is more awareness.” Blizovsky added, “It’s a pity this is happening the way it did… I have been involved with groups that have been talking about this issue for years. During calm times, people don’t do anything.”

Describing some of Blizovsky’s activism, the piece stated,

On Sunday morning, one day after the Hamas assault began, Blizovsky started several WhatsApp communities for those who wish to have easier access to personal weapons. They have drawn some 4,000 members in 24 hours. An online petition he created, in order to press the government on the issue, garnered some 8,000 signatures in the same timeframe.

If more people had access to personal firearms, the horrific scenes coming out of the Gaza-adjacent communities could have been averted, he opined.

The article also quoted digital marketing agency CEO Yoel Israel, who the piece described as being “active in libertarian political circles.” Israel lamented, “Who has a gun? The terrorists, and all the criminals. Who doesn’t? Law-abiding tax-payers.”

At least one story of heroism from October 7 suggests that armed citizens can make a tremendous difference.

Multiple news outlets have reported the story of Inbar Lieberman, the 25-year-old security coordinator at Kibbutz Nir Am. An account of her actions in the New York Post explained that after the security coordinator realized the kibbutz was under attack, she “rushed to open the armory, distributed guns to the 12-member security team and coordinated their decisive response amid the unfolding attack.”

The article went on to report,

She placed her squad of kibbutzniks in strategic positions across the settlement and set up ambushes that caught the gunmen off guard and turned the tables on them during their mission to inflict mass casualties.

Lieberman killed five terrorists by herself, while the others gunned down 20 more over four hours as they turned Nir Am into an impenetrable fortress — while nearby kibbutzim suffered heavy losses.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.