Could Israeli-style gun laws prevent mass shootings in the US?

Following the latest US shooting rampage in Parkland, Florida, some want the US to consider the “Israeli model” for gun control.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

The recent murderous rampage by a 19-year-old man in a Parkland High School in Florida struck close to home for many in Israel. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has a large Jewish population and five of the 17 fatalities were Jews. The outspoken Parkland police chief Scott Israel is the first Jewish sheriff ever elected to serve in Florida. In addition, in the wake of the massacre, voices have been heard in the US suggesting that America adopt Israeli gun safety policies.

Former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was in Israel at the time of the Parkland attack. He tweeted: “Just waking up in Israel to news of heartbreaking school shooting in FL …Reminded that Israel pretty much eliminated it by placing highly trained people strategically to spot the one common thread–not the weapon, but a person with intent. #PrayForParkland”

Huckabee is a regular visitor, and a very popular personality in Israel, but several local commentators took issue with his analysis, saying it isn’t tight security that protects Israel from mass shootings, but laws that carefully control who can own and carry a gun. Former Israeli Consul Alon Pinkas responded to Huckabee with a tweet saying, “No Governor, Israel NEVER had such a problem. We don’t worship guns, we don’t sell assault rifles to people, we don’t have a genius creation like the NRA, we don’t regard every bunch of guys a ‘well-regulated militia’ and we’re pretty much done fighting the British.”

One often hears comments by US visitors who are surprised to see IDF soldiers carrying M16 automatic rifles on the streets of Israel. Those weapons are in the hands of security forces charged with protecting the nation. Police carry guns, and so do security guards. For those not “on the job,” Israeli law limits firearm ownership and requires vigorous vetting and regular license renewal. There have been occasions where civilians carrying pistols have been useful in the prevention of terrorist attacks, but the vast majority of those attacks are thwarted by security forces.

Do fewer guns mean fewer problems?

To be sure, there are illegal weapons in the hands of Jewish citizens who steal guns from the army, the underworld has illegal weapons, and so do too many Israeli Arab villagers. However, proportionately, firearms in the hands of Israeli civilians are an astounding one-thirteenth of the number in the United States. According to the US Congressional Research Service, there are more privately owned guns than there are people in the US. In 2013, there were 317 million people and 357 million guns. The United States leads the world with 112 guns per 100 residents. With all of its security problems, Israel is 79th on the world list with a mere 7 guns per 100 residents. There is no fundamental “right” to carry arms any more than there is a “right” to drive a car.

There have been 1,500 mass shootings (4 or more killed) in the US since Sandy Hook in 2012 when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. During that period, 1,715 people were killed and 6,089 wounded by guns.

Things are not likely to improve in the US any time soon. The powerful National Rifle (NRA) Association resists just about every effort to toughen laws relating to gun ownership. The NRA bases its opposition to gun limitations on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. That amendment, written in 1789, sates: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear arms, shall not be infringed.” The courts have largely backed the “right” to bear arms.

The American gun owners of today are not militiamen, and their weapons have never been used, or even considered for use, in the defense of the United States. That duty belongs to the US armed forces, the National Guard and the police. Nevertheless, despite the recent atrocity in Parkland, neither the courts nor Congress are expected to take any significant action any time soon that will change the reality of unlimited “legal” gun ownership.

One of those legal gun owners was the suspected Parkland perpetrator. 19-year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz, a neo-Nazi sympathizer has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Cruz was armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines. Despite a history of mental illness, he had purchased the rifle legally from a nearby Coral Springs gun store.

Many in the US like to use Israel as an example of a nation that is a model for protecting its citizens by building a security fence. The Jewish state is also good at protecting outdoor concert-goers and movie-goers and shoppers by creating layers of armed security, to ensure a safe venue with adequate exits in case of emergency. Israel could accurately be referred to as an example of a nation under real security threat, with a reasonable approach to guns in the hands of its citizens.

If there is an Israeli gun model for the US to emulate it’s this: In Israel, the department of public security considers gun ownership to be a privilege and not a right. With few exceptions, gun owners in Israel are limited to owning one pistol. Potential gun owners undergo extensive mental and physical tests before they can receive a weapon. Those who have not served in the army must wait until age 27 to apply for a firearms license, and gun owners are limited to 50 rounds of ammunition per year.