In addition to the hundreds of new volunteer units, [national security minister Itamar] Ben Gvir has called on individuals to “go, arm yourself.” Shooting ranges and gun stores in Israel have seen an increase in foot traffic as private gun licensing rules were relaxed by Ben Gvir in recent weeks, Reuters reported.
A press release by the Ministry of National Security said that Hebrew-speaking citizens who have military training, no criminal record, and live in an eligible area “can undergo a telephone interview instead of an in-person one, and be issued a firearm license within a week.”
A 2017 report from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss nonprofit tracking global firearms holdings, found civilians owned approximately 557,000 registered and unregistered guns in Israel, or 6.7 guns per 100 people – a tiny fraction of America’s 120 guns per 100 people. Israeli officials in October estimated that at least 300,000 Israelis would be eligible for the new licenses.
Guy Ben-Porat, a politics professor at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, told CNN that while he does not want to discount the fear of the wider Israeli population, who “feel that they have been neglected by the military and the government and the instinct is to demand weapons,” he believes Ben Gvir has been “exploiting the opportunity to promote what he has wanted for a long time” that is “arming Jewish civilians.”
What the country needs is a reduction in arms, he said, pointing to the issue of illegal guns fueling gang-related violence among Arab citizens of Israel. The community – which makes up 20% of the population – has been calling for more measures to help curb criminal violence to deaf years, according to Ben-Porat.
“There’s a gun culture because people are insecure, so they buy guns, and every local feud can turn into a gun battle,” Ben-Porat, who is also an expert on minority policing, said. “However, the answer is not to give guns to Jewish citizens, but to take the guns away.”