After Newtown, new focus on Israeli gun control

The horrific massacre of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has renewed interest in how other countries deal with gun control.

In July, after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., JTA’s Ben Sales wrote a piece explaining why in Israel, despite the proliferation of military assault weapons, gun violence is far lower than in the United States.

Guns are ubiquitous in Israel, where most 18-year-olds are drafted into the army after high school.

However, once those soldiers finish their service two or three years later, they are subject to civilian gun control regulations that are much stricter than American laws.

In fact, it’s pretty much impossible for civilians who live in Israel to acquire an arsenal of weaponry of the sort used by the alleged shooter in last week’s massacre in Aurora, Colo. James E. Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 in the Aurora movie theater, legally bought the firearms he used, according to reports, including a semiautomatic rifle, a semiautomatic pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun. Leading up to the shooting, Holmes had bought thousands of bullets online.

In Israel, assault rifles are banned except for special circumstances, such as communal self-defense in areas deemed to be a security risk. And while political violence in Israel is all too common and gun violence is a growing problem, random shootings of strangers – like the Aurora massacre — are virtually unheard-of here.

Unlike in the United States, where the right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution’s Second Amendment, Israel’s department of public security considers gun ownership a privilege, not a right. Gun owners in Israel are limited to owning one pistol, and must undergo extensive mental and physical tests before they can receive a weapon, and gun owners are limited to 50 rounds of ammunition per year.

Not all Israelis, however, may own guns. In order to own a pistol, an Israeli must for two years have been either a captain in the army or a former lieutenant colonel. Israelis with an equivalent rank in other security organizations may also own a pistol.

Read the story here.

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