Israelis Arming Themselves Like Americans, and It's Glorious

AP Photo/Oded Balilty

Compared to the United States, Israeli gun laws seem pretty restrictive. Compared to the rest of the world, Israel is a pro-gun oasis amid the desert of gun-controlled nations.

Yet that wasn't quite enough to stop 10/7 from happening. After all, most of the people in Israel were of the opinion that they didn't need a gun, and that the military could keep them safe from any such attack. Sure, there was terrorism, but a gun doesn't do much against a suicide bomber in most cases.

At least, that's the reasoning I've gleaned.

But 10/7 happened. Like 9/11 here, it changed things, at least for a time. 

It seems Israelis are arming up much like Americans would in such a situation.

Among the core Israeli national narratives that have been fractured by the Hamas terror attacks and months of war and violence is the notion that Israel’s ethos on firearms differs from that of the United States.

Both countries can be characterized as gun-centric democracies, but according to the Israeli narrative, the U.S. is a land of too many guns and too few laws, while Israelis “trust their state, and don’t fear each other.” A common refrain emphasizes that in Israel, bearing arms isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.

After Oct. 7, in a shockingly fast turnaround, that privilege became, if not a right, an imperative. In changing Israel’s relationship with firearms, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is also changing the nation in ways that could have profound and lasting implications.

This is a good thing, at least to my mind. I can't help but think how things would have looked differently at that music festival if even a sizeable minority of those kids had been armed and shot back at the Hamas murderers, or how the horrors we've seen from the kibbutzes might have been different if the terrorists had to actually fight from house to house.

But, unfortunately, the author seems to feel differently.

Still, American researchers like me could view Israeli’s gun safety efforts as a model of successful public policy.

Now that model is at risk. Hamas’ kidnapping and slaughter of Israelis represents a catastrophic failure of state protection. It has tapped into deep national fears about being Jewish, vulnerable and exposed.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir — an incendiary Jewish supremacist once expelled from army service because of radicalism — has seized the moment. Prior to the Hamas attacks, he tried to weaken gun permit regulations and ease carry rights, but his arguments failed to gain traction. Now, however, he and his allies have managed to fast-track legislation that has generated an unprecedented spike in armed Jewish civilians.

“Carry a Gun, It's a Life-saver: Ben-Gvir and His Wife Boast of Dramatic Expansion in Israelis Carrying Weapons” read a headline in Haaretz on Oct. 22.

Clearly, this is meant as a criticism. 

However, Ben-Gvir is right, and a lot of Israelis woke up to the idea that they should be carrying firearms after the events of 10/7.

Whether you agree with it or not, the truth was that Hamas killed a lot of innocent people who weren't armed. Yes, they killed some who were, but at least those folks had a chance. They could take some of the bastards with them, and not just have to hide and pray that they're not found, only to be defenseless when they were.

The reason this is a good thing is that 10/7 is fresh. For generations, the survivors will pass along the warnings of what happened and Israelis will buy and carry guns, and Hamas will have to consider that in all their future plans.

The author talks about how Israel treated guns, how they basically banned rifles and heavily restricted handguns, but he can't seem to wrap his head around the fact that Hamas was aware of those laws as well. They knew just how little armed resistance they'd meet at their civilian targets. They counted on it.

Now, they can't.

Shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine, civilians there started getting guns. The government made it easier because they knew it was essential to defending their homes.

And Russia bit off more than it expected in Ukraine. That's no coincidence.

Now, Israelis are arming themselves at rates that make Americans smile, and it's because they refuse to be victims of genocidal maniacs ready to annihilate them in the name of religion. I'm sorry, but that's a good thing. Never again is nothing but a catchy slogan unless you put some teeth into it.

Israelis are doing just that.