I’ve been reading the masses of articles, blog posts and columns written about the Sandy Hook school shooting. Blame has been thrown about. Guns have been blamed, violent video games have been blamed (and rightly so, from personal experience. They really can mess with one’s mind, and I’m sane…), the murderer’s mother has been blamed for not keeping her guns locked away safely and the authorities have been blamed for not doing what was needed in order to give the murderer the proper psychological and or psychiatric attention.
However, the main discussion which seems to be going on in the US is whether or not US citizens should be allowed to bear arms. While the American Left is claiming that more gun control would lessen the chances of such incidents occurring (which in fact is true for this specific incident), the Right is saying that more abundance of guns, rather than their absence is what is needed to deter potential killers from carrying out school shootings, because criminals will procure guns anyway.
The comparison with Israel, for me, is the next logical step in the argument.
What is the situation in Israel in regard to gun control?
Israel practices much stricter gun laws than the US. In order to legally procure a gun, one is required to get a license, which is given only to people with a clean criminal record, a clean bill of physical and mental health, over the age of 21 who have lived in Israel for at least 3 years. A license to hold a gun is given to people who live in dangerous areas, such as in Judea and Samaria, or to people who require a gun in their line of work, such as security guards, etc.
In reality, there are an awful lot of guns around.
Israel has mandatory army service for every 18 year old (with exceptions, which I have written about in the past), so that many 18-21 year olds carry M16s and other contraptions when they come home from the army every other weekend. It is quite common to see 19 year olds walking around the mall with M16s strapped to their backs. Nobody bats an eyelid. Army regulations require soldiers to keep their guns on their person at all times, unless they are dismantled, locked behind two separate locks, with the magazines stored separately. I myself brought a gun home on numerous occasions during my army service. I always made sure it was stored safely and out of reach of my younger siblings, and if I couldn’t do that, I carried it with me. I have never heard of soldiers going back to their old school and shooting kids, although there have been cases in which soldiers committed suicide.
In addition, Israel has a very large number of security guards. Almost all the job offers in the last pages of the newspapers are for security guards (for minimum wage). Every school has an armed guard posted at the entrance. Every shopping mall and bus station has an armed guard posted at every entrance. This is not due to there being a large number of crazed shooters roaming the streets, but because of there being a large number of terrorists with the means and the motive to kill Israelis wherever they can find them. They check the bags of everyone who enters for concealed weapons. Almost anyone with a clean record can become a security guard.
As far as I know, Israel has never had a school shooting the likes of which happened in Connecticut two weeks ago, but we have plenty of experience with terrorists blowing up buses and cafes, shooting at passing cars, shooting up crowded places, and whatnot. In many cases, the armed security guard has managed to avert a much larger catastrophe, quite often at the price of his or her own life.
Guns don’t kill, people do?
I have not conducted a comparative study of gun control laws in different countries, but it does seem clear that the US has an overabundance of school shootings. Is it because of lacking care for the mentally ill? Is it due to the ease with which a mentally ill person can get his hands on firearms?
There should be no restrictions on law abiding citizens of mentally sound minds, but it is an entirely different matter when lethal weapons fall into the hands of the wrong people.
Here are a few examples from our Middle-Eastern neighborhood:
- In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, Sunnis and Alawites have been killing each other for the past few months, with guns, as part of the Syrian civil war. The fact that they are not living in Syria doesn’t seem to slow them down; neither does the fact that Lebanon has its own law enforcement authorities, which don’t seem willing or able to do anything about it.
- Meanwhile, in the south of Lebanon, an armed guerilla group has the firepower and manpower to wage war against another country at will, without requiring consent from the State authorities. And they do. Lebanon’s army, as well as the UN is powerless to stop them. They are currently fighting alongside Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.
- In many Arab villages in Israel, it is customary to fire celebratory gunfire in the air at weddings. In this way, many weddings end with a funeral. Of course it’s illegal and so are the weapons, but nobody seems able to stop this ridiculous custom.
- In an American school… Well you know about those ones already.
My bottom line is that criminals and crazies should have to work a bit harder for their means of murder. At the same time, responsible people should be able to bear arms, in order to stop the irresponsible ones from using weapons which they procured illegally.
Americans are afraid for their freedom, but is placing restrictions on gun ownership for the mentally unstable and the criminally convicted really that bad? Let law abiding citizens keep their guns, but keep dangerous people and dangerous tools apart.
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