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Ben-Gvir policy encourages civilians to engage terrorists

Bystanders who thwart terror attacks will no longer have their weapons confiscated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a deadly Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Jan. 27, 2023. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir at the scene of a deadly Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Jan. 27, 2023. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli civilians who shoot terrorists in the act of committing attacks will no longer have their weapons confiscated or be interrogated under caution, according to a new policy initiative by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Hebrew-language media reported on Saturday that the minister had agreed with police on the new measures, meant to encourage civilians to arm themselves.

Until now, a civilian who fires at a terrorist generally has their weapon confiscated as part of the ensuing investigation. They are also often summoned for questioning, sometimes under caution of potential criminal acts.

The new policy will only apply to terror attacks in which the shooter acts in self-defense, only harms the perpetrator and stops firing the moment the danger has subsided.

In the event, police will examine the firearm at the scene and then return it to the owner.

Last week, Ben-Gvir hailed the civilian who shot and killed the Palestinian terrorist who wounded seven in Tel Aviv.

“I congratulate the brave citizen who neutralized the terrorist, prevented the continuation of the incident and saved lives. This once again proves the importance and effectiveness of citizens carrying weapons,” said Ben-Gvir.

“I call on those in the public who meet the requirements: Carry firearms with you,” he added.

Earlier this year, Ben-Gvir reiterated his call to make it easier for civilians to obtain a license to carry firearms, describing it as one of his “overarching goals.”

The minister said he sees no reason why Israel Defense Forces combat veterans, for example, should not be allowed to carry weapons. Currently, he noted, many soldiers “absurdly” do not meet the criteria for obtaining a license.

“In the recent [terror] attacks, we saw how critical the response of citizens carrying weapons is,” he said. “This is a critical and life-saving security issue.”

Ben-Gvir noted that in the first four months of the Netanyahu government’s formation, his office had issued 12,000 firearms licenses that had been held up due to what he called bureaucratic complications.

In February, Ben-Gvir vowed to push through a fivefold increase in firearm licenses in the wake of a terrorist attack that killed seven people at a synagogue in Jerusalem.

To this end, he has directed the Firearms Licensing Department to increase the number of new permits issued from roughly 2,000 to 10,000 per month.

Israel has much more stringent gun laws than the United States, despite much of the population being familiar with firearms due to the country’s near-universal compulsory military service.

In most cases, civilians may only carry pistols, and licenses are mainly dependent on completing firearms training. Most individuals can own only a single handgun, and be in possession of a fixed amount of ammunition at any given time.

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