Israel’s gun control policies worsened the death toll

Israel’s gun control policies worsened the death toll
AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah

If your name isn’t Rip Van Winkle, you’ve heard what happened over the weekend in the Middle East. Israel was subjected to a massive attack by Hamas using thousands of rockets, drone bombs, and a thousand armed men who breached the border and entered Israel via sea, air, and land.


The militants attacked several rural communities and the city of Sderot. They massacred more than 250 people at a trance music festival with a peace theme. In the age of smartphone cameras, there are too many videos of the massacres to shake whatever faith in humanity you have left.

As of this writing, the toll stands at over 700 Israelis killed (archived links) and more than 2000 injured, several hundred of whom are in critical condition fighting for their lives. Around 130 Israeli civilians have been kidnapped and taken back to Gaza as hostages. This was a medieval pogrom with modern technology, not a valiant struggle for freedom.

Israel’s reputable intelligence and security apparatus failed to keep their citizens safe. This happens from time to time around the world. US intelligence agencies failed to prevent 9/11. Indian intelligence failed to prevent the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks (known as 26/11 for the 26th of November 2008). But the death toll wouldn’t have been so insanely high if not for Israel’s gun control policies.

The Library of Congress has a document listing gun control policies of various countries around the world. Israel’s gun control policies are listed in this PDF document starting at page 119 (page 115 in the doc), and go for about 8 pages:

Assuming that the laws listed in the above document are still current, here is a summary of Israeli gun control:

  • License to manufacture (i.e., no homemade guns) and import/export guns
  • License to possess and carry guns, with a “good cause” requirement
  • License to buy and sell guns
  • License to operate a gun range
  • License to ship guns
  • Registration of guns
  • Surrender of firearms to the police upon the expiration of a permit to possess
  • Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns
  • Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen licenses
  • Mental and physical health requirements, including a mental illness determination by the Ministry of Health
  • Criminal background check
  • Training requirements

In addition to the above document, I found another source from which further restrictions can be gleaned:

  • Minimum age requirements
  • License renewal requirements
  • An annual quota of 50 rounds of ammunition

The bottom line is that Israel’s gun control looks a lot like New York’s or California’s gun control before NYSRPA v. Bruen, except it’s much worse. An old 2012 Washington Post article published a few weeks after Sandy Hook said that a whopping 40 percent of permit applications are rejected. The article also had this quote from American scholar Janet Rosenbaum:

“Israel has well-known security concerns, but it limits security to the professionals.”

It came as a surprise to me that people living so close to a dangerous border were left dependent on the professionals. After Israeli tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed and the border was overrun, these people had no way of protecting themselves.


At the music festival where more than 250 people were slaughtered, some people managed to fight back. They resisted their attackers, took their guns, and shot back at them (archived links).

They saved their own lives and the lives of many others. Who knows what the death toll would have been if they had not been able to fight back with guns? Another question is, how much lower would the death toll be if people had been carrying in the first place, and didn’t have to wait to take the terrorists’ guns?

Israeli authorities have learned from this and are making changes to their gun control policies (archived links) to allow their citizens to bear arms more easily. It’s not much, but something is better than nothing. And it’s better late than never. I hope this is a first step to liberalizing gun laws so Israelis can defend themselves from the horror that some evil actors desperately want to inflict upon them.

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