A Gun for Each Citizen? Weapons Licensing Reform
In the shadow of the sharp increase in the number of women murdered in 2018, the Gun Free Kitchen Tables coalition, of which ACRI is a member, petitioned the High Court of Justice on November 29, 2018 against the planned reform in firearms licensing. The reform was formulated by the Minister of Public Security at the time, Gilad Erdan, and seeks to bring about a massive expansion in eligibility for personal firearms licenses, posing a genuine danger to public safety and security.
According to the new criteria formulated by the minister, anyone who served in the army and underwent combat training (using a Tavor 7 rifle or above), even if 50 years have passed since they completed their military service, is eligible to have a firearm at their disposal (subject to health and police approval and in accordance with preconditions). This process may unprecedentedly and unreasonably increase the potential number of citizens with firearm licenses by an additional 600,000 people.
Per an international comparison presented in the petition, 40% of all murders in Israel were committed with firearms, compared to 28% on average in OECD countries. Indeed, for over 20 years, Israel adopted a correspondingly restrictive policy, and weapons were solely granted to populations that had specific needs for them. Furthermore, findings presented in the petition indicated that weapons in the public sphere increase the risk to women's lives by 3-5%.
In the petition, organizations claimed that the Minister of Public Security’s reform was accepted without any factual basis; adequate public or parliamentary debate; and in ignoring facts, data, and conclusions from countless committees, State Comptroller, and Ministry of Health reports that were written in blood over the past three decades, which support restricted access to weapons in the public sphere. The coalition also rejected the premise on which Erdan’s reform was based, according to which armed citizens contribute to public security. Beyond the revocation of the new criterion, the organizations sought to annul the temporary order from May this year, which permitted security guards to carry security weapons outside of working hours.
On February 15, 2021, the court issued a conditional order regarding two of the resolutions requested in the petition: anchoring criteria for being granted a personal firearms license in secondary legislation and revoking the temporary order permitting security guards to take their weapons outside of the workplace after work hours.
On July 22, 2021, the Attorney General's Office informed the High Court of Justice that the new Minister of Public Security, Omer Bar-Lev, accepted the Attorney General’s stance, according to which criteria for granting a personal firearms license must be established in secondary legislation. In doing so, Minister Bar-Lev presented the opposite stance to that of his position’s predecessor, Amir Ohana. The State Attorney’s announcement noted that, in accordance with the minister's new decision, Ministry of Public Security professionals would soon begin to prepare a draft of criteria that may be presented to the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. Regarding security weapons, the new minister prolonged his predecessors’ policy, deciding to extend the permission granted to security guards to take their weapons home with them.
The last hearing on the petition was held on April 13, 2022. It was preceded by an announcement from the state that it intends to promote legislative changes regarding both of the resolutions we requested: it undertook to bring the regulations determining the criteria for weapons licensing to the Public Security Committee for approval by the end of the Knesset session; and announced that it intends to promote a legislative amendment within two months, enabling the minister to issue an order permitting security guards to take their weapons with the approval of the Public Security Committee, instead of an administrative directive. On April 27, 2022, a ruling was issued that upholds the state's obligations and resolves the petition.