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June 20, 2016 3:03 am

Orlando and Tel Aviv Shootings Highlight American-Israeli Dichotomy on Guns

avatar by Alex Traiman /JNS.org

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A vigil in Washington, DC for the Orlando massacre victims. Photo: Wikipedia.

A vigil in Washington, DC for the Orlando massacre victims. Photo: Wikipedia.

JNS.org – In a span of less than a week, deadly shooting sprees at the hands of gunmen affiliated with Islamic terror movements rocked Orlando and Tel Aviv. In America, the deadliest mass-murder attack since Sept. 11, 2001, has strengthened calls for stricter gun-control laws. Yet, in Israel, where many civilians carry firearms, questions on how the terrorists acquired their weapons did not spark national debate.

“Israelis relate to guns totally differently than Americans,” said Marc Provisor, director of security projects for One Israel Fund, an organization that provides security equipment to Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley.

A majority of terrorists who have attacked Israelis in recent months have been neutralized by armed Israelis, including police officers, off-duty soldiers, and even civilians.

“People here have guns out of a grim necessity. It’s not a hobby,” Provisor told JNS.org.

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In the United States, the right to bear arms is a now-challenged Constitutional fixture, and many Americans possess more than one weapon. Israel does not have an official constitution, yet the country’s set of Basic Laws does not protect the ability of any individual to have access to firearms. Many Israelis carry firearms, yet there are strict controls on who is allowed to possess a weapon, and citizens who carry them are required to go through gun training. Israeli civilians are typically restricted to a single handgun and limited numbers of bullets.

According to Provisor, there are certain criteria that an Israeli civilian must meet before being permitted to own a handgun.

“There is a medical review, there is a psychological review, and Israeli police and security services check you out before you are approved for a handgun. It’s not that easy….In Israel, a gun is not looked at as a privilege, but rather as a responsibility,” he said.

Avi Dobular, master shooting instructor at the Magnum 88 Range in Jerusalem, argued that the motivations are different when it comes to Israeli and American citizens wanting to own guns for self-defense.

“Here [in Israel] we’re not talking about somebody wanting to break into your house and steal your jewelry. Here it is an existential threat to your life,” he told JNS.org.

“Armed citizens increase the overall security of the nation and its people,” Dobular said. “There cannot be a policeman or an armed soldier on every block. So an armed citizenry is very important.”

Self-perceived cultural differences between Israel and America may contribute to the fact that unprovoked usage of firearms by civilians is a rare occurrence in Israel.

“Random gun violence is low here because people are more serious,” said Dobular. “Israelis grow up in a gun culture. They see people carrying guns from a young age. They serve in the army, where they are taught discipline and responsibility. Plus, people live a relatively happy life here. And here there is no concept of people taking out their problems on others with weapons.”

Palestinians, meanwhile, with the exception of local police forces in the West Bank, are generally not permitted to carry firearms. Yet growing numbers of Palestinians have been getting their hands on weapons and using them in deadly terror offensives.

Over the past several years, there has been a rising number of Palestinian terrorist shooting attacks against Jews driving on roads, and in crowded areas like shopping centers. During the months-long wave of terror that started last fall, in addition to homemade guns and bombs, Palestinian terrorists have utilized their cars and even kitchen knives as weapons. The terror wave has indicated that Palestinian attackers intent on harming civilians will use whatever weapons they can get their hands on — even improvised weapons.

Despite calls by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for any future Palestinian state to be completely demilitarized, Palestinians have “a ton of weapons,” Provisor told JNS.org.

“Israel has been instrumental in arming Palestinian police forces,” he said. “Palestinian police were originally armed by Israel as part of the Oslo agreement. We first began to see these weapons turned on Jews during the second intifada.”

As a result of the persistent threat of terror, Israel has been easing gun controls to enable and even encourage Jews living in areas near large Palestinian communities to acquire firearms.

In October 2015, amid the renewed surge of Palestinian attacks, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat openly encouraged Israelis with handguns to carry them. He told Israel’s Army Radio, “I think that carrying a licensed pistol and knowing what to do with it is imperative.

“We can see that statistically, the neutralization of terrorists was often done by capable people who weren’t necessarily policemen,” said Barkat.

Dobular believes Israelis need to be “always vigilant and prepared.” During a terror attack of any nature, “a gun is an equalizer,” he told JNS.org.

Israeli authorities are not concerned that civilians carrying weapons will turn them on their fellow citizens. Israelis civilians are not permitted access to multiple weapons or assault rifles.

“If we didn’t have to, most Israelis would not want to own a handgun,” Provisor said.

While Orlando shooter Omar Mateen used an assault rifle for his mass murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub, Israeli civilians are not permitted access to multiple weapons or assault rifles.

“People here think, ‘Why would anybody want to have like five assault rifles?’” Provisor said. “Most Israelis would think that walking into a Walmart and buying an assault rifle is a little bit crazy.”

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  • Reform School

    Newswriters and others commenting on the Orlando shooting postulated the weapon used must have had a folding stock to sneak it into the nightclub. No shooter armed by the Department of Homeland Security needs carry arms covertly. Nobody wishing to avoid torture challenges DHS badges.

  • Esther

    The author of this article is clearly ignorant of the reason Americans have a constitutionally guaranteed right to own so-called “assault rifles” (which are just semi-automatic rifles that have been given a name intended to scare people). You can’t resist a dictator/other tyrannical form of government with significantly inferior weaponry. Remember when the native Americans tried using bows and arrows against soldiers with guns? Imagine having a handgun and 10 bullets to defend yourself against an army with fully automatic machine guns. The Chinese aren’t allowed to own guns. The Nazis prohibited Jews from owning guns. Freed black slaves weren’t allowed to own guns. Any time you see someone who wants to oppress someone else, the first thing they do is prohibit them from owning guns.
    To the idea that owning guns is merely a “hobby” for Americans, or that we own them to keep people from stealing our jewelry (as if being robbed of your valuables were negligible), guns are successfully used for self-defense by innumerable Americans every year. They give old people the ability to fight off violent young men, including robbers, and women the ability to prevent rape, including by home invaders.
    Compare these two stories from the US and the UK (where owning guns is almost impossible):
    http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2016-05-06/boiling-water-poured-over-elderly-couple-tied-up-and-tortured-by-burglars/
    http://kval.com/news/local/police-intruder-shot-during-snohomish-co-home-invasion-robbery

  • Peter

    In a world where guns are banned only the criminals will have firearms.

  • Marco Redwolf

    First and foremost let us understand that the second amendment to the US Constitution is not and never was ” A Privilege” It is a right.. A God Given Right as our founders put it so succinctly. Then let us acknowledge that until the birth of our republic their were few if any Jews on Earth that were allowed to own any type of weapon ( much less a firearm ) Jews were kept disarmed by every country, king, emperor and pope in Europe and the Islamic caliphate. and not by accident. So ONLY in America could a Jew own a firearm and defend his family. Like the US. Israel was born in blood.The need to be armed and stay armed was pure necessity but alas the combination of British Policy ( no guns for the natives ) and centuries of submission left its mark. The founding fathers of Israel as smart and persevering as they were , were still a bunch of European Socialists. The anti private ownership of weapons was inevitable. Born in 1940 I’m the product of an upper middle class Jewsih Family from NYC. I remember the up roar when when my father gave me a sing;le shot .22 caliber rifle for my bar Mitzvah. I wish I had a dollar for everytime he ( or my mother ) was told ” Guns are fro the Goyim ! Whats wrong with you, he’ll grow up to be a bum ! “

  • The Orlando gun assault which murdered fifty people was the
    worst mass shooting in US history. But it was, by no means, the
    worst mass murder by an enraged individual, as hinted in the
    article. In 1990, a jilted lover set fire to a dance hall in
    the Bronx e.g. Eighty-nine souls were killed. In less than a
    week the horror was hardly covered any more in the media.Why?
    Most probably, because it didn’t involve firearms. Kind of hard
    to politicize that.

  • H.Givon

    It is worthy of note that when a young Israeli completes basic compulsory military training he/she participates in a ceremony at which he/she receives two important items. The gun is, obviously,needed in time of war; a copy of the Old Testament, the foundation of Judaism,can be considered
    a reminder of the morality by which one must serve.

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