The Israeli Way

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).

And then:

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.

So…what then?

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.
If you’ve got a lib friend who’s been yapping about Israeli gun laws, have ‘em read Leibowitz’ piece.

2 thoughts on “The Israeli Way

  1. Your argument runs like this: Israel and Switzerland have high rates of gun ownership and low rates of gun violence and there is no need for gun control.

    Despite universal military service, Israel has substantially fewer guns than the United States according to the Small Arms Survey.

    Israel puts the onus on would-be gun owners to explain why they need these weapons. Israel limits gun ownership to security workers, people who transport valuables or explosives, residents of the West Bank, and hunters. People who don’t fall into one of those categories cannot obtain a firearm permit. Moreover, Israel rejects 40 percent of firearm permit applicants, the highest rejection rate in the Western world. Israel requires yearly permit renewals to insure that the reasons are still applicable.

    Switzerland is one of only six countries in the world that requires comprehensive details of the firearm, owner, and all firearm transfers to be reported to the federal government. It also requires two levels of firearm permits: one for acquisition and one for possession. U.S. states vary in their gun-control structure and 34 states have only minimal requirements for concealed carry permits.

    Unlike Switzerland, Israel has well-known security concerns, but it limits security to the professionals. Universal army service entrusts every 18-21 year old soldier with a gun, but only lieutenant colonels and above can own guns after their service ends. Schools employ armed commercial security guards, but teachers haven’t carried guns since the 1970s. Israel has a Civil Guard that employs civilian volunteers, in part, to fight terrorism. Such an effort would seem to be an opening for civilian gun ownership, but volunteers in Israel’s Civil Guard are only entitled to a gun permit after 5 years of service. The country’s security policies are designed to keep amateurs from carrying guns in the street — even amateurs who have served 3 years in the army.

    Israel requires soldiers to leave their weapons on base during weekend leave as part of an effort to curb military suicides that began in 2006.

    You’re pointing to the wise and mature gun culture that prevails in Israel and Switzerland, calling for the United States to follow these countries in promoting civilian firearm access for self-protection. But you’re praising a fictional version of these countries. The real Israel and Switzerland have few guns and a great many restrictions on them.

    http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/A-Yearbook/2003/en/Small-Arms-Survey-2003-Chapter-02-EN.pdf
    (yes, I agree this is an older survey)

  2. Emery,

    Your argument runs like this: Israel and Switzerland have high rates of gun ownership and low rates of gun violence and there is no need for gun control.

    Despite universal military service, Israel has substantially fewer guns than the United States according to the Small Arms Survey.

    You did read the post, right? How the number of illegal guns zoomed after Israel “tightened” the laws on civilian guns?

    Israel puts the onus on would-be gun owners to explain why they need these weapons. Israel limits gun ownership to security workers, people who transport valuables or explosives, residents of the West Bank, and hunters. People who don’t fall into one of those categories cannot obtain a firearm permit.

    Um, yeah. You didn’t read the post, or Leibowitz’ article. Go back and do that, please. You missed a vital bit of context that the laws and the surveys missed.

    Moreover, Israel rejects 40 percent of firearm permit applicants, the highest rejection rate in the Western world.

    Not as high as Chicago or DC.

    Switzerland is one of only six countries in the world that requires comprehensive details of the firearm, owner, and all firearm transfers to be reported to the federal government. It also requires two levels of firearm permits: one for acquisition and one for possession. U.S. states vary in their gun-control structure and 34 states have only minimal requirements for concealed carry permits.

    And…?

    OK, I’ll fill in the rest of it:
    – Switzerland is about the size of an American “State”. It’s got a population about the size of Minnesota’s, and is much smaller. Making “federal” and “state” comparisons is specious. (Israel has a slightly larger population than MN, and is a tiny fraction of the size).

    – As to your crack about “34 states only requiring minimal information” – those are the “Shall Issue” states, and the “minimal information” is the only information that really matters; the applicant’s criminal record, mental health, alcohol and drug records. And it works; as I’ve showed in this space, carry permit-holders are two orders of magnitude less likely to commit a crime than the general public; the general public is three orders of magnitude less likely to be harmed by a carry permittee than by the general public, at most

    Schools employ armed commercial security guards, but teachers haven’t carried guns since the 1970s.

    At which time the program of allowing teachers to carry was resoundingly successful.

    And Israel’s “tightening” of gun laws was less a matter of responding to any danger on the part of the law-abiding Israeli than it was reacting to socialist qualms about armed citizens. Just because they did something doesn’t make it right.

    You’re pointing to the wise and mature gun culture that prevails in Israel and Switzerland, calling for the United States to follow these countries in promoting civilian firearm access for self-protection. But you’re praising a fictional version of these countries. The real Israel and Switzerland have few guns and a great many restrictions on them.

    Well, you got the part about “promoting civilian firearms for self-protection” right. I pointed out the Israeli response in the seventies – which worked, which is all I care about.

    So ignore other countries. Carry permittees in America have an astoundingly good record. Depending on the research you believe, concealed carry either reduces violent crime or has no negative effect – and I’m inclined to believe the former. Guns in the homes of law-abiding, non-addled citizens are vastly more likely to deter crime than cause it.

    Unlike the Israelis and our wannabe liberal overlords, American gun owners propose gun laws that actually affect crime; keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them (it was the NRA that came up with the NICS database, which has largely driven illegal gun-buying out of the gun stores, except for the federal government).

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