Israel's policy on issuing guns is restrictive, and armed guards at
its schools are meant to stop terrorists, not crazed or disgruntled
gunmen, experts said Monday, rejecting claims by America's top gun lobby
that Israel serves as proof for its philosophy that the U.S. needs more
weapons, not fewer.
Far from the image of a heavily
armed population where ordinary people have their own arsenals to repel
attackers, Israel allows its people to acquire firearms only if they can
prove their professions or places of residence put them in danger. The
country relies on its security services, not armed citizens, to prevent
Though military service in Israel is
compulsory, routine familiarity with weapons does not carry over into
civilian life. Israel has far fewer private weapons per capita than the
U.S., and while there have been gangster shootouts on the streets from
time to time, gun rampages outside the context of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unheard of.
Rifle Association responded to the Dec. 14 killing of 20 first-graders
and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school by resisting calls for
tighter gun control and calling for armed guards and police at schools.
On Sunday, the lobby's chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, invoked his
perception of the Israeli school security system to back his proposal.
"Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing:
They said, `We're going to stop it,' and they put armed security in
every school and they have not had a problem since then," LaPierre said
on the NBC News show "Meet the Press."
Israel never had "a whole lot of school shootings." Authorities could only recall two in the past four decades.
1974, 22 children and three adults were killed in a Palestinian attack
on an elementary school in Maalot, near the border with Lebanon. The
attackers' goal was to take the children hostage and trade them for
In 2008, another Palestinian
assailant killed eight young people, most of them teens, at a nighttime
study session at a Jewish religious seminary in Jerusalem. An off-duty
soldier who happened to be in the area killed the attacker with his
Israel didn't mandate armed guards at
the entrances to all schools until 1995, the Education Ministry said -
more than two decades after the Maalot attack and two years after a
Palestinian militant wounded five pupils and their principal in a
knifing at a Jerusalem school.
Israel's lightly armed
school guards are not the first or the last line of defense. They are
backed up by special police forces on motorcycles that can be on the
scene within minutes - again bringing out the main, but not the only,
difference between the two systems.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor spelled it out.
fighting terrorism, which comes under very specific geopolitical and
military circumstances. This is not something that compares with the
situation in the U.S," Palmor said.
Because it is aimed
at preventing terror attacks, Israel's school security system is part of
a multi-layered defense strategy that focuses on prevention and doesn't
depend on a guy at a gate with a gun.
gathering inside Palestinian territories, a large military force inside
the West Bank and a barrier of towering concrete slabs and electronic
fencing along and inside the West Bank provide the first line of
Guards are stationed not just at schools, but at
many other public facilities, including bus and train stations, parking
lots, malls and restaurants.
"There are other measures
of prevention of an attack taking place, which are carried out 24 hours a
day, seven days a week, all over the country," police spokesman Micky
Rosenfeld said. Many are not for public knowledge.
lobbyists who might think Israel hands out guns freely to keep its
citizens safe might be less enamored of Israel's actual gun laws, which
are much stricter than those in the U.S. For one thing, notes Yakov
Amit, head of the firearms licensing department at the Ministry of
Public Security, Israeli law does not guarantee the right to bear arms
as the U.S. Constitution does.
"The policy in Israel is restrictive," he said.
Gun licensing to private citizens is limited largely to people who
are deemed to need a firearm because they work or live in dangerous
areas, Amit said. West Bank settlers, for instance, can apply for
weapons licenses, as can residents of communities on the borders with
Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Licensing requires multiple levels of
screening, and permits must be renewed every three years. Renewal is not
The policy is designed "to strike a balance
between needs and risks," Amit said. "We know that weapons are a
dangerous thing, and in the hands of someone who isn't trained or isn't
reliable, it causes problems."
The gap between Israeli
gun ownership and U.S. gun ownership is consequently staggering. A total
of 170,000 guns are licensed for private use in Israel, or about one
gun for every 30 adults.
In addition to the privately
held weapons, 130,000 guns are licensed to Israeli security companies,
firing ranges, government ministries and companies that operate in areas
deemed dangerous. Soldiers who carry assault rifles off base during
their regular or reserves service turn them in when they complete their
tours of duty.
By contrast, U.S. authorities estimate that at least one-third of all
American households have firearms - and in many cases, not only one.
are also much freer to choose what type of guns they buy. Automatic
weapons of the type Lanza used to gun down his victims are banned for
private ownership in Israel. It is also rare for a person to be
authorized to own more than one firearm, Amit said.
percent of the 10,000 people who apply yearly for licenses are turned
down, he said. In the U.S., people can purchase firearms from private
dealers without a background check or a license of any kind.
In Israel, applicants must undergo police screening and medical exams, in part to determine their mental state, Amit said.
Israelis receive weapons training in the military. But to be licensed
to receive a weapon outside the military, they must undergo at least two
hours of additional training, then repeat the training and medical
exams every three years before they can renew their licenses.
who possesses a legally acquired gun waives the right to
confidentiality, and authorities cross-reference for new information
about the gunholder every three months.
"The point is not to complicate, but to make sure the system makes things safer," Amit said.
You May Also Like...
Faces of Meth: Before and After pictures
Bikini Photos: 2012 Hooters International Swimsuit Pageant
Eye on You: Giant eyeball named "Weirdest story of 2012"
Simply Irresistible: Woman fired for being 'irresistible'
Sacrilicious: Jesus spotted on Texas man's tortilla
Pants on the Ground: City drops saggy pants ordinance
Sex Offender Search: Look up Florida Sex Offenders here
Lawsuit: Scientology allegedly covered up woman's death
Lovely Angels: 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show pictures
Yowtch! Teen accidentally shoots off his penis, testicle
Really?!?: Dashcam catches man urinating on patrol car
Cheerleader sex: Former Ben-Gal pleads guilty to sex with teen
Gah: Nose ring found in McDonalds burrito
PHOTOS: George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin crime scene pics
Not just a game? Man murdered for Magic: The Gathering cards
Yearbook mug shot: Teen who posed in racy yearbook photos busted for underage drinking
Bikinis, mud, trucks: The Redneck Yacht Club
Photos: Ex-Charlie Sheen Goddess Bree Olson
Naughty Schoolgirls: Naughty schoolgirl night at Tampa club pictures
Outrageous mug shot galleries...
Strange: Some of the most unusual mug shots we've seen
Notorious Women: Bad girls behind bars
Teachers: Teacher arrest mugshots
Celebrities: The rich and famous have their own booking photos
Jaw droppers: Open mouth mug shots
Laughers: What's so funny mug shots
Prostitutes: Prostitute mug shots
Athletes: Professional athlete mug shots
Porn arrests: Child porn arrest mug shots
Local Mugs: Hillsborough County Mug shots
More unusual mug shots and galleries: 10 News slideshows and galleries