The Israeli Cabinet decided yesterday to increase the number of citizens licensed to carry weapons by easing the application procedure, Haaretz has reported. According to the National Security Ministry, 86 of the 100 towns in which the percentage of those already licensed is high are illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The data shows that the percentage of licensed weapons is low in towns and cities, as well as Haredi settlements and in Arab cities and towns, although the latter have widespread unlicensed arms. In the settlements of Adora in the south of Mount Hebron, Kiryat Netafim and Neghot, a third of the residents carry weapons. Around 148,000 Israeli settlers and citizens currently hold licences to carry weapons. This figure excludes security personnel, soldiers, police and border guards.
The former Minister of National Security, Gilad Erdan, eased the criteria for gun licences in 2018. The criteria included military service in combat units and "residence in towns whose residents deserve a licence to carry weapons". These tend to be border settlements and towns, according to Haaretz. Volunteers at rescue organisations can also obtain gun licences.
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A police source pointed out that the low percentage of licensed weapons in Arab and Haredi towns stems from the fact that they do not serve in the army and so do not meet the necessary licence criteria. In any case, "intelligence information" often leads to police rejecting licence applications from Arab citizens.
Following the shootings in Jerusalem at the weekend, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that he would ease the requirements for obtaining a gun licence. "I want more weapons on the streets [so that] Israeli citizens can defend themselves."
The Gun Free Kitchen Tables initiative, which brings together social organisations that oppose the easing of gun licences, warned that the widespread arming of citizens will lead to regret. "Today's reality is poisonous and deadly. Increased armament has led to a jump in the number of murders." The group insisted that having more weapons on the streets does not enhance security.
Official data shows that twelve Israelis committed suicide using a licensed weapon in 2021. Sixteen others were killed when bullets ricocheted. Moreover, fourteen women were shot and killed by people using licensed weapons.