Over the past week I’m sure most Anglos in Israel have heard the sentence above, whether on Facebook’s various groups, Twitter and random conversations between friends.
These conversations usually bring out the many opinions on guns, gun laws, gun safety, and everything in between. Most Olim from countries such as the US and the UK can have extremely different viewpoints, usually at the extreme ends of the spectrum with equally as many misconceptions from both ends of the aisle.
Education is key when carrying a weapon, the difference between Israel and the US/UK on the matter could not be further apart.
The primary education in Israel regarding the use of weapons begins for most at the age of 18 years when joining the IDF.
The exposure of Israelis to the issue of weapon safety can be introduced at even a younger age than 18, chances are that growing up the average Israeli’s father or brother had an Army issued rifle at one point or another. The sentence “where is a safe place for me to put my gun” is known in most Israeli households, having been voiced by soldiers on leave from the IDF and is, once again, very basic to the Israeli society. As a result, most Israeli children are warned by their parents or siblings not to go near the weapon, sentences such as “the gun is not a toy” are stated at some point in every Israeli household. This sentence can also be heard on most school trips in Israel, since armed escort is mandatory by the Israeli Ministry of Education, so most students from 4th grade up have been exposed to weapons in their vicinity very early in their lives.
In a very stark contrast, the US has what is known as “Gun Culture” something which surprisingly does not exist even in the least in Israel, even with a large amount of its population being exposed to personal weapons.
Shooting ranges in the US are used for mostly recreational activity and sport, as such, the use of guns are also perceived as exactly that, a sport, by many of its citizens.
This type of regard towards firearms in the US can be very extreme in both liberal and conservative elements. The education on the matter is not nearly what it needs to be in order for a random person walking into a gun store to walk out with a firearm, as well as the proper mindset for safeguarding one properly.
As a result, in the US, firearms are perceived mostly as either an unnecessary evil by one group, or as a citizen’s G-d given right to another, without actually trying to educate towards the safer handling of weapons by all.
To most Israelis, firearms are viewed as a necessity due to the constant threat of terror, a means of protection during a generation long fragile security situation.
During these difficult times it is important to remember some very important and sometimes contradicting insights regarding the use of firearms against terror.
Guns are dangerous when not used properly, just like cars, knives and the microwave in your kitchen can be. Most private handgun owners in Israel are not ex Commandos or expert marksmen but you can be sure that the majority of those have served in the IDF and are educated in basic firearm safety mentality predominant in the Israel Defense Forces.
From my experience within the IDF there is a “no tolerance” attitude towards irresponsible behavior with weapons, I know 2 soldiers personally that after misusing their weapons by pointing them at fellow soldiers were court martial-ed, jailed and had a blemish on their record.
As a result of the above, generally when weapons have ultimately been discharged during a terror attack within the civilian population, a very small amount of shots are fired, of the shots fired, an overwhelming amount have hit the target they were intended for.
For those unfamiliar with military statistics – in the IDF Ground Combat Simulator, achieving a 30% target hit in open warfare is considered double the amount needed to qualify. Urban warfare is very different, all police officers, soldiers and ex-soldiers all know that much emphasis is put on not harming innocent civilians whether they are Jews in a crowded market in Jerusalem or Arabs that have inadvertently or not stumbled into a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Hebron. This education is embedded in most ex combat soldiers DNA and extends to their mindset when carrying a personal handgun. For the most part, over the years, armed civilians have proven to be “force multipliers” when handling Muslim terror attacks.
The real problem begins when inexperienced civilians are looking for a “quick fix” and think that if they just had a gun they would be safer. This is a total misconception, guns in the hands of a civilian who has no military background can be dangerous, they can turn a relatively simple terror attack into a much more complex scenario for first responders.
I would recommend personally, that any Anglo with no prior military background interested in purchasing a firearm should at least take an additional course beyond the Israeli Ministry of Internal Security’s requirement. Places such as Caliber 3 in Gush Etzion or Krav in Jerusalem are a good place to start when looking for a course. Gung ho Anglos that think that guns will solve their personal safety issues can soon become more of a hindrance than a help if not trained properly and professionally. The point is be part of the solution – not add to the problem at hand.
Moreover – self-defense classes can be much more vital to protecting one’s self than a handgun or even pepper spray in inexperienced hands. Self-defense classes are a pretty good solution to learning how to defend yourself from a knifing. Classes such as these have the added bonus of being good exercise as well. These classes should become mandatory in Israeli High Schools with proper funding allocated through the Ministry of Education.
Israel has a relatively thinly spread Police force, this force can be augmented at times with Border Patrol units or regular IDF soldiers but these actions are usually only effective in the short term. Soldiers spending weeks with the police are also soldiers who are being trained less as a result.
Therefore it is imperative that any ex-military civilian that can apply for a gun permit, should. Needless to say that those that own a firearm should adhere to “Batman Barkat’s” call and carry it while being vigilant as well as cautious.
Additionally, this is most important for your safety, get your head out of your smartphone, it may save your life, making sure you are aware of your surroundings is part of living in Israel, accept it, embrace it.
So at the end of the day – “How do I get a gun?” should probably be replaced with “How can I do my best to protect myself”,