October 11, 2023
We’ve chronicled here back in 2022 on how Israel’s restrictive gun laws have left most citizens unprotected and in danger. After the horrific, brutal attack on citizens by Hamas terrorists over the weekend, the Minister of National Security has instructed the Firearms Licensing Division to begin an emergency operation to allow more citizens to arm themselves.
The directive does four things: shortens wait time for a permit to carry a firearm by making telephone interviews available instead of in-person interviews, permits anyone who had a conditional permit to purchase a gun in 2022 but whose license expired to purchase a firearm without seeking another permit, allows anyone who forfeited their gun in the past six months due to failure to conduct refresher or renewal training to receive their weapon back, and allows permit holders to purchase up to 100 rounds of ammunition, rather than the 50 rounds previously permitted.
But according to a firearms tactical trainer who grew up near the West Bank and now teaches Israeli military and defensive tactics to American citizens, the changes aren’t significant enough to really help protect Israel’s civilian population from further terror attacks. In fact, Yonatan Stern, director of Pennsylvania-based Cherev Gidon Israeli Tactical Training, directly blames the government’s restrictive gun laws for enabling the terrorists involved in the massacre.
“The reason the bloodbath and the carnage were so terrible is because of Israel's horrific gun control laws,” Stern, a former member of both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Police, said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “Practically no one is allowed to own any type of firearm whatsoever. Contrary to popular belief, if people see off duty soldiers walking around in restaurants with M-16s they think, ‘Oh, Israel is the most armed nation in the world.’ They think that the Second Amendment is rampant in Israel, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. The average Israeli citizen has zero access whatsoever to firearms. And only a small, privileged few can get a license for one pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition.
“So, when these terrorists came in, they just burst through the border fence and thousands of them poured in with fully automatic AK-47s, grenades and RPGs. And you know, the Israeli strict gun control system didn't apply to them. But the civilian population who it did apply to, who had to submit to those draconian immoral gun controls, were defenseless.”
According to an analysis by criminologist John Lott, head of the Crime Prevention Research Center, 2022 figures show that out of the seven million-plus Jews in Israel, only about 148,000 are permitted to carry guns. When you discount the younger population that hasn’t reached adulthood, that results in about 3.4 percent of adults having a permit.
Stern said because of the incredibly low number of permit holders, the Israeli government’s slight loosening of the current regulations for obtaining a permit simply won’t make a significant difference for the vast majority of citizens.
“Only those who fall into the criteria of who is eligible to obtain a permit are eligible,” Stern said. “And that's only a small percentage of Israel's population. The majority of people, an average Joe, still will not be eligible to obtain any kind of weapon whatsoever.”
The provision to allow those few permitted citizens to obtain and possess 100 rounds of ammunition instead of the 50 previously allowed also won’t change much, according to Stern.
“I can tell you, going through 50 rounds of ammunition when you're in a shootout is a matter of seconds, and that's nothing like when you're armed against people who have unlimited amounts of ammunition,” he said. “So, they're increasing it supposedly to 100 rounds of ammunition, but that hasn't gone into effect yet. People are asking online, ‘When are we going to be able to get our other 50 rounds?’ There's no answer.”
Having grown up in Israel and served in both the military and law enforcement there, Stern said there are a couple of key things Israel’s government should be doing to help civilians protect themselves from terrorists. Unfortunately, neither are likely to happen anytime soon.
“Number one, they need to legalize rifle ownership because rifles are what you need for combat,” Stern said. “You don't need a pistol: That’s what you use to get to your rifle. A pistol is not your primary defensive weapon. It's a sidearm, and there's a reason we call it a sidearm. It's a secondary weapon. It's a backup gun. It's not your primary weapon.
“The Arabs know that and that's why they're using AK-47s. But when you're carrying a little Beretta with a couple of magazines, and they're wearing body armor and they have an AK and 20 magazines, an RPG and grenades, you stand zero chance when you're being swarmed by them.”
Stern said the other thing the government needs to do to enable civilians to protect themselves is to expand the pool of people who are eligible to own guns to the entire adult population.
“It's still a very constricted, small group of people who have the privilege reserved only for those who the government deems worthy of such,” he said. “That's the real core of the problem, and it's not going to change anything so long as you only have a small group of people with pistols. If the licensing was expedited, and it's a larger group now than it was before, even if they have another 50 rounds of ammunition it's not going to make a significant change when you're dealing with these kinds of savages running rampant, assaulting entire communities.
“They need to recognize the right to bear arms. They need to legalize firearms ownership for every citizen of age who is above 18 years old, man or woman.”
With such necessary reforms not on the horizon, Stern can only pray for the Israeli people, who he loves so deeply. But he says the importance of the atrocities that occurred in Israel must not be lost on American gun owners.
“I would tell you this: Never, ever give up your guns because the minute you do you become a helpless victim, and you never know when a situation like this can happen,” he said. “We have an open border in America. We have illegal immigrants pouring in from the whole world, and I'm not just talking about poor people from Mexico and Central America.
“You have people from the Middle East, and we don't know who they are and what their plans are. You could have entire terror cells pouring in here planning to do in America what they're doing in Israel. And if you give up your guns because some tyrannical government says that it’s to make society safe, that's not what their plans are. You're going to end up like these civilians in Israel. So never ever surrender your weapons.”
In the end, Stern said the Israeli government’s restriction on civilian firearms ownership cost hundreds of civilian lives. And that grave injustice should never be forgotten.
“And I'm not even just talking about the intelligence failure,” he said. “That is a whole other issue that people will deal with down the line. I'm sure there's going to be recrimination, there's going to be investigations and trials. That's a separate matter.
“But what I'm talking about right now is the guilt of disarming a population in face of terrorism that is unthinkable and that is evil, and they're going to have to pay when their day of judgment comes. Whether it's in front of a judge or whether it's in front God, each and every person who wrote those laws and who enforced those laws is going to have to pay for their responsibility for all that blood that was spilled because they disarmed those people and didn't give them the ability to defend themselves.”
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.