More Israeli citizens have applied for firearms licenses in the last month than in the previous 20 years, according to an Israeli government official.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced on Wednesday that his ministry has received more than 236,000 new applications for firearms licenses since October 7th. Of those received applications, he said 31,048 conditional permits for private weapons have already been issued.
“18,000 citizens have already exercised the permit and purchased a gun,” Ben Gvir said in a statement, according to a Google translation. “This is an increase of thousands of percent compared to previous years.”
The massive spike in Israeli civilians seeking out firearms highlights the lasting effects of the attacks the country faced on October 7th, when Hamas terrorists crossed the Israeli border and slaughtered more than 1400 civilians while taking hundreds of hostages.
The new numbers represent a huge increase over where applications stood just a few weeks ago. Simcha Rothman, Chair of the Israeli Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, recently told The Reload that 150,000 Israelis had applied for permits.
“More than 100,000. Much more than that. I would say around 150,000,” Rothman told The Reload in early November. “So, it’s an increase. The yearly average is 40,000 or 50,000. In less than a month, it’s three times that.”
Ben Gvir has responded to the October 7th attacks by liberalizing the country’s firearm permitting process on an emergency basis to allow more citizens to own and carry guns for self-defense. He directed the Israeli Firearms Licensing Division to expedite the permitting process by changing the type of interviews required for applying and expanding the pool of residents eligible for a permit. He also reinstated recently expired permits and doubled the ammunition purchase limit for gun permit holders in the hopes that more Israelis would get armed and carry firearms publicly.
Those emergency reforms appear to be having their intended effect. According to The Times of Israel, Ben Gvir’s ministry has been approving roughly 1,700 permits per day since those reforms, compared to previous daily averages of 94 and 42 in November 2022 and 2021, respectively.
Rothman said the government has pushed for increased civilian gun ownership because Israeli citizens have a track record of successful defensive gun use.
“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.”
Outside of Israel, many American Jews have similarly responded to the attacks and subsequent demonstrations by Hamas sympathizers by seeking out firearms.
“I will say that a lot more Jewish people, they’re not publicizing it a lot, but they are getting themselves armed,” Joshua, a doctor in Los Angeles who did not wish to have his full name revealed due to safety concerns, told The Reload last month. “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.”
Despite the government’s reforms and recent emphasis on civilian gun ownership, Israel’s gun laws remain strict compared with the United States. The country does not have formal gun-rights protections along the lines of the Second Amendment, and it bars nearly all civilians from owning rifles. Furthermore, the government limits the amount of ammunition firearm permit holders can purchase at one time to just 100 rounds.
It does, however, allow anyone with a permit to own a firearm to also carry that firearm in public for self-defense.
While the number of Israeli citizens becoming legally armed over the past month has increased at a record pace, Ben Gvir called for even more eligible citizens to continue seeking out firearms in Wednesday’s announcement.
“I call on all those who are eligible — be patient with the backlog, and go get armed,” he said. “Guns save lives.”