In the wake of the shootings in Connecticut last week, some – myself included – said it might be time to look at the response the Israelis took to repeated terrorist attacks on schools in the seventies; allowing teachers to carry their own, legally-obtained weapons in school.
Lefties, armed with a small sheaf of convenient Google results and an Ezra Klein column that was, er, riddled with errors, responded “But no! Gun laws in Israel are teh tight! You are wrong!”
The answer? Somewhere in between and, as usual, a little to my side of the divide (and, as always, “distrust but verify Ezra Klein”), according to this piece in “The Table” from Liel Leibowitz.
Leibowitz notes that most Israeli men, and not a few women, serve in the military, which involves carrying their fully-automatic weapons around with them while on active duty, and keeping them at home with a load of ammunition while they’re in the reserves, ’til age 45 (without noting how little time soldiers spend training with handguns for the type of knife-range encounter most civilians can expect to encounter).
If we disregard the glut of guns facilitated by the Israel Defense Forces, we are left with strict-sounding laws that require anyone who wants a firearm license to register with the government and meet a list of seemingly stringent conditions.
To receive a gun license, one technically needs to meet two sets of criteria. First, the basics: A gun owner must be a citizen or a permanent resident and speak some Hebrew. The person can’t be a minor and can’t have any physical or mental problems hindering him from operating a firearm. Second, one must show cause to carry a weapon, a privilege limited on paper to about a dozen categories of people whose work conditions are perilous enough to justify carrying a firearm.
And that’s where American liberals leave it.
But there is so, so, so much more:
But take a closer look, and that second set becomes quite porous: Security guards, obviously, are permitted their guns, but so are men and women who work in the diamond industry, or who handle valuable goods or large sums of cash. Anyone who lives or works in an “entitled residency”—code for a high-risk area, meaning the settlements—is permitted a weapon, no questions asked. Retired army officers can easily obtain a license, as can anyone who has inherited a gun from a friend or a relative. And sportsmen can easily get shotgun permits if they claim that they wish to use it to hunt pheasant or boar.
The upshot: Anyone can come up with an excuse to legally own a gun.
And that’s the part that lefties, in their frothing frenzy, missed.
Now, here’s the interesting part. Israel has been tightening gun laws in recent years, adding restrictions and jacking up enforcement.
The results? They’re the sort of thing you’d predict – if you’re a conservative and a shooter:
The result was clear: In 2000, there were approximately 400,000 legally owned firearms in Israel, the majority of them handguns, and the number of illegal weapons stood at about 150,000. Ten years later, thanks largely to the new strictures, the ratio was reversed: 180,000 firearms were legally licensed, and more than 400,000 were illegally obtained, most of them assault rifles like the M-16 and the Galil, stolen from the Israel Defense Forces.
This, in fact, plays almost like a laboratory experiment; as a result of tightening access to guns by the law-abiding, the number of illegal guns rises.
See also: Chicago.
Naturally, this led to an increase in the number of casualties, as it placed far mightier tools in the hands of criminals who were previously content to handle their affairs using the perfectly legal and readily available guns at their disposal.
But wait – Israelis are permitted to buy less ammunition per year, right?
Even if we disregard the relative ease of obtaining more bullets—the army is always a handy source, as are shooting ranges, which sell as many bullets as one wants and rarely check at the door to see how many rounds each customer actually fired and how many were squirreled away—talk of limiting ammunition remains unconvincing. Dylan Klebold, for example, committed most of his Columbine massacre using a TEC-9 handgun, which he fired a total of 55 times. Nearly any Israeli citizen could have fired the same number of bullets without breaking any law, and some—from the homicidal Baruch Goldstein to Eden Natan-Zada, a soldier who shot up a bus full of Israeli Arabs—did.
So appeals to Israeli gun law as a reason for the Jewish State’s relative tranquility are misplaced.
Read Leibowitz’ entire article – it’s very worth a read. But to summarize, for the US, he notes three things:
- Gun control wasn’t the answer in Israel, and it’s not here. Like the prohibitions on drugs and booze, gun control just drives criminals into the black market. And by extension, according to Leibowitz’ own example; when you control them, criminals will not only find them, but find the biggest, baddest ones they can. Why break the law to get a Raven .25 when you can break the same law and get an Uzi?
- It’s the gun culture, stupid: Our pop culture, from video games to Hollywood to ganster rap, treats guns the same way as they treat sex; all fun, no responsibilities. In Israel (and Switzerland), a culture where every Dad and most of the Moms spend a couple years of their lives living and breathing gun safety full-time, like in much of rural America, gun safety is part of the culture.
- And it’s also the mental illness, er…stupid: Yep. We gotta take another look at how we treat them, literally and figuratively.