The Knesset Interior Committee on Tuesday lowered the minimum age at which Israeli civilians can acquire a firearms license, in the latest measure enabling civilians to legally arm themselves following the recent brutal wave of terrorist knife, gun and car-ramming attacks.
The Committee approved lowering the age by one year – from 21 to 20 – for Israelis who served in the army or security forces. Israeli citizens who did not perform military service can still apply for a gun license if they have a valid exemption, but only aged 27.
MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beytenu) was among the supporters of the motion. He told Arutz Sheva that in his view, the minimum age should be lowered still further.
"We need to lower the age to 19, because it can't be that a young man who performs compulsory military service and finishes basic training, commanders course and sometimes even officers course, cannot bear arms," Amar told Arutz Sheva.
Amar further noted that soldiers receive other benefits in recognition of their service, and enabling young men and women who risk their lives to fight for their country to adequately protect themselves off duty is at least as important.
"If a soldier can get a permit to work (outside of the army), why not enable him to work in (private) security," he asked, referring to army policy allowing soldiers who need to support their families to work while off duty. Currently, those still below the minimum age to acquire a private sidearm are unable to work in private security, since such employment would require a civilian permit.
"My position was not accepted but I still commend this bill," Amar stated. "We are a terrorism-stricken country and we are obligated to protect our citizens, and I think that every soldier or citizen who is able to bear arms should have a gun.
"And the state should enable (citizens) to be armed" in order that they should have the ability to defend themselves, their families and fellow citizens he added. Many of the recent spate of knife attacks have indeed been stopped by armed civilians prior to the arrival of police or security forces.
Amar brushed aside claims by anti-gun lobbyists that an increase in legal firearm ownership would lead to an increase in gun crime. The MK noted that the vast majority of gun crime in Israel – where legal private gun ownership stands at only around 4%, and where applications are subjected to rigorous screening – is in fact carried out with illegally-owned weapons.
"Most of the murders are committed with illegal weapons, and there is no connection between legal weapons and an increase in violent incidents," Amar insisted.