In the United States I’ve found there is a general misunderstanding of Israeli gun laws. Many of you have probably seen the picture of what appears to be a teacher standing guard over her class of school children carrying a M1 Carbine. This image has been circulated on the Internet as evidence that most everyone can carry a firearm in Israel for self defense, including school teachers. Today I found out the truth about gun laws in Israel and learned the woman in the picture is most likely not a school teacher or even a regular Israeli citizen.
After spending an incredible day at the range with the guys from IWI shooting everything from the Negev LMG to the X95 and Uzi Pro firearms we decided to head over to a gun shop to get more information on the gun laws.
When walking in the scene seemed all too familiar. Behind the counter was a friendly gentleman that welcomed us with a warm smile and greeting. There were several employee’s around him and they all look towards us and offered a friendly smile as well. I felt right at home.
The shop is named L.H.B and it sits in the bustling metropolitan area of Tel Aviv. By American standards the shop would be considered small, but in Israel it is considered to be one of the largest. The walls were covered mostly with accessories and items that would be useful to any shooter or person interested in self defense but the number of guns were relatively modest. A display case featured mostly Sig Sauer handguns with a single M&P 9mm and a selection of domestically produced Jericho 941 pistols. A single IWI X95 rifle was on display and a single Micro Uzi sub-machine gun. Both firearms were select-fire.
I asked a gentleman named Yariv who works at L.H.B if he could explain in detail what the Israeli laws were like. Here’s what I learned.
To own a handgun you must get a permit. This process is quite painful and would make NFA owners in the U.S. shake their heads in disbelief. To begin the applicant must fill out a form that resembles a 4473 form. They are asked a series of questions that in most cases aren’t too dissimilar to those asked on our 4473 form. The questions for the prospective buyer are on the right side of the form. On the left there are questions your family doctor must also answer by checking off the provided boxes on the questionnaire.
The doctor will have to certify you aren’t mentally ill or taking medication for any type of mental disorder. The doctor will also have to certify you’re not suffering from epilepsy, stroke, heart problems and have not recently lost consciousness. They will also certify that you’re not in need of a psych eval. Wow. But it doesn’t stop there.
You will also have to prove you have a need for owning a handgun. Things like living in a border town or being employed as a security guard may be enough to get you that permit but there’s no guarantee. This is the most challenging obstacle in an Israelis path to gun ownership as there are only about 160,000 permits in Israel total. This includes all handguns, the very few rifles, shotguns and even air guns in circulation. Yes, air guns. It’s also interesting to note there are roughly 48,000 handguns on the civilian market in total. Not all permit holders own firearms which is why there’s such a large discrepancy between the number of permits and the number of handguns owned.
Another requirement is that you must get instruction in the specific make and model of firearm by taking a sanctioned course.
So let’s say you navigate the maze above and are approved for a pistol. You can only buy (1) handgun, period. There was a time you could own as many as eight handguns but that number has been reduced to just one over time. If you bought your handguns before the reduction in the number you could own took place, you can still keep them. Rifles are nearly impossible to get as a civilan. The government thinks rifles are more dangerous and thus rarely gives its approval for people to buy them.
Now with your new pistol permit in hand you head over to L.H.B to buy your one and only handgun you’re allotted for life and ask to buy the M&P 9mm. You’ll find that the handgun will set you back a cool 3,940 Shekels or about $1,100. Such high prices aren’t reserved for the U.S. made guns, even the domestically produced Jericho is far more expensive than those sold on the U.S. market.
For most Israeli’s owning a defensive firearm is nearly impossible. Weapons such as pepper spray can be purchased but that’s about it. There are also fairly heavy restrictions on the knives Israeli’s can carry.
With only about 30 gun shops in the entire country and with the heavy restrictions on what may be owned, the belief that Israel is a “gun culture” really isn’t true. At one time they tell me L.H.B was a thriving business with people filling the store on weekday afternoons, but today we found it vacant except for our entourage and the employees working there. My visit was a reminder of why we must remain vigilant in the defense of our 2nd Amendment rights.