Less than a month after Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,400 people, Israelis have applied for more gun permits than they have over the past three years combined.
In an exclusive interview with The Reload, the Chair of the Israeli Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee said the government has seen an unprecedented surge in demand for personal firearms. Simcha Rothman said applications for handgun permits have climbed to 150,000 as the government has, at least to some degree, opened up eligibility for civilians to own and carry pistols.
“More than 100,000. Much more than that. I would say around 150,000,” Rothman told The Reload. “So, it’s an increase. The yearly average is 40,000 or 50,000. In less than a month, it’s three times that.”
The Israeli rush to take up arms mirrors what the world saw in Ukraine as the Russian invasion began last year, where the government loosened gun restrictions and even gave out firearms to those civilians willing to take them. It offers another example of civilians arming themselves in response to terror campaigns waged by governments and terror groups alike, as well as their governments reforming gun laws in the wake of the new demand. That’s something that’s rarely happened across the globe as most countries have sought to restrict or outright eliminate the ability for civilians to keep their own arms.
“We live in a dangerous neighborhood,” Rothman said. “So, October 7th was another terrible reminder.”
Israeli gun regulations have always been very strict compared to those common in the United States. The country doesn’t have formal gun-rights protections, it bars nearly all civilians from owning rifles, and most from owning handguns. To obtain permission to own a pistol, an applicant has to live or work in certain areas of the country the government deems as particularly dangerous or meet some other condition of need. Then, they have to pass a criminal and mental health check before they can buy. Although, once they have a permit to own a pistol, it also qualifies them to carry it in public.
“We don’t have a Second Amendment,” Rothman said. “It’s not a right. You need to have a cause or eligibility.”
In the days and weeks after the Hamas attacks, the Israeli government upped ammunition limits and extended handgun permit eligibility to new swaths of civilians. Rothman said the October 7th attacks accelerated a change to lifetime handgun permit eligibility for veterans that has now made that group the largest group allowed to own guns in the country.
“So, it used to be that only certain kinds of units in the army were given life eligibility. Now, every combatant in the past can be eligible, and we’re talking about big numbers,” he said. “But I have to say it was planned before. So, it wasn’t done in a rush. It was already in working progress. When October 7th happened, it was a time to urge everyone to push forward with what they already been planning to do.”
Rothman said the government is hoping the changes will encourage more Israelis to carry guns in public.
“In the past, law-abiding citizens with handguns stopped and prevented many terrorist attacks in Israel,” he said. “There are many, many terrorists that were killed on the site by law-abiding citizens carrying a gun. They didn’t wait for the law enforcement. That saved many, many people. So, every spike in terror was always bringing motivation.”
He also pointed to the work of what he described as “semi-military” forces that worked to secure rural communities known as kibbutz during October 7th. He said those groups saved countless lives as Hamas terrorists rampaged throughout southern Israel.
“What saved many, many communities was an active and well-trained first responder squad. A few people with handguns, rifles, and M-16s that guard their own municipality and small community,” Rothman said. “So, they saved many, many people in their own communities. They killed a lot of terrorists and prevented a much larger catastrophe. As terrible as the result of the vicious attack by the Hamas on October 7th that we saw, it could be way, way, way, way, way more deadly if not for the work of first responders armed with handguns and rifles.”
25-year-old Inbar Lieberman is an example of one such case that has garnered worldwide attention. Lieberman was the head of the security team for kibbutz Nir Am during the attack. The team killed numerous terrorists, according to The Daily Mail. While a slew of other kibbutz were devastated during the onslaught, The Times of Israel reported Nir Am didn’t lose a single resident.
The story of armed defiance has inspired Jews across the globe. It is one of the reasons, among many, an unprecedented number of Jewish Americans have sought out guns and training in the wake of the terror attacks an ocean away. Joshua, a doctor in Los Angeles who asked his identity be without over security concerns, pointed to Liberman as an inspiration for his own decision to buy guns for the first time.
“When she heard what was going on, she went to the armory and got several firearms for her and her friends,” he told The Reload last month. “They took up positions. They were able to repel the Hamas terrorists, and they didn’t lose anyone. So, that’s a great example of how properly trained civilians can repel someone with bad intent.”
He said the October 7th attacks have led Jewish people all over the world to reconsider their feelings about owning guns.
“I will say that a lot more Jewish people, they’re not publicizing it a lot, but they are getting themselves armed,” Joshua said. “They have family. They see what’s going on around the world. And this specific example, right in Israel, where evil people decided to go and slaughter entire families and babies in cribs. So, they don’t want that to happen to them. And if something happens, at least we’ll go down fighting. We’re not going to be herded into gas chambers like they did in the 1940s.”
Rothman said the recent reforms aren’t new ideas. Instead, he said they are the result of an ongoing campaign to loosen some of the nation’s gun laws that most previous governments have supported.
“And also from government officials calling for it out loud saying, ‘Get a gun,'” he said. “It was actually encouraged by most ministers of Homeland Security and high-ranking ministers in the governments of the past. If you look at the last three or four ministers of Homeland Security, that was their agenda. They said anyone who can get a gun legally, by all means, do it. We will try to get as many obstacles as possible out of your way because we think it’s important.”
He compared the terrorist campaign launched on October 7th to September 11th and argued it had given people in Israel and around the world a new perspective on the fight they are in. He said the attack and armed resistance to it has opened up many Israeli’s minds to owning and carrying handguns.
“That’s made a lot of people aware of the option, of the possibility, and the need,” Rothman said.