Last summer, as riots and political violence erupted on American streets, gun sales and concealed carry applications spiked dramatically, and have yet to return to pre-2020 levels. When our own sense of personal safety becomes threatened, it’s human nature to think more about protecting ourselves and our loved ones, and we’re seeing the same phenomenon at work in Israel right now, where applications for carry licenses have jumped by 700% over the past week.
According to Haaretz, in an average week about 270 people apply for a carry license, but last week almost 2,000 people submitted their application.
A senior law enforcement official said that “The number of requests is enormous, but makes sense in light of the security situation in the country.” He added that the applications represent “the public’s fear that at the moment of truth, the police won’t be there, and they’d prefer to defend themselves in a life-threatening event. After the images we’re seeing in Lod, Ramle and the areas of the Triangle and the Negev, it makes sense that civilians would request to arm themselves in order to protect themselves and their families.”
While the media’s attention has largely been focused on the rocket attacks launched by Hamas into Israel and the Israeli military’s response in Gaza, there’ve been a number of street-level clashes in the country as well.
We tend to think of Israel as a pretty gun-friendly place, given that service in the IDF is mandatory and the sight of soldiers with rifles on city streets is not uncommon. When it comes to civilians and gun ownership, however, the nation actually imposes tight restrictions on carrying a firearm for self-defense.
There are currently about 145,000 civilians in Israel who hold a gun license, in addition to members of security services. Applicants must meet specific criteria, such as holding a certain military rank, living in a West Bank settlement or near the border wall, working particular jobs such as medics and farmers and other limitations. Most civilians are limited to one handgun and 50 bullets.
The criteria for acquiring a gun license was expanded in past years under Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who approved granting permits to former combat soldiers and reserve officers with a rank of captain or higher. At the moment, most of the civilians applying for licenses are doing so under the criteria of having served in a combat unit during their military service and proximity to the West Bank.
Haaretz reports that the police and Israel’s Public Safety minister support changes to the law that would allow more citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and others, but the country is a long way from establishing the type of “shall issue” carry licensing systems found in the vast majority of U.S. states.
Clearly that’s not stopping a growing number of Israelis from trying to obtain a license for themselves, and as long as the violence and riots are taking place, we can expect the number of applicants to continue to grow. What remains to be seen is whether or not the increased demand for the carry licenses will lead to any formal changes in Israel’s restrictive carry laws, or if the country will continue to keep the onerous restrictions in place, preventing the average citizen from bearing arms in self-defense.