America could learn a few things from Israeli gun culture

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Shirah Lister

Living and studying in Israel, I have been shocked to see the number of guns casually carried around by soldiers and civilians, some not much older than myself. People who, in America, wouldn’t be allowed to drink, were in possession of dangerous weapons. Yet, in Israel, shootings happen less often than in the US.

America is notorious for its gun laws, or lack thereof. The daily shootings, laidback restrictions, and absence of proper background checks create the terror that is gun laws in the US. In contrast, Israel, a place best known for its constant conflict and terrorism, is the exact opposite.

In Israel, only healthy and eligible people with an approved reason are able to get gun permits. Permits limit a person to owning one handgun and a lifetime supply of 50 bullets. Israelis also must pass a physical, mental, and criminal background check. Additionally, they must take shooting courses and get their license renewed every three years.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Americans need no reason to carry guns nor are they required to pass any sort of background check under federal law. There is no waiting period, licenses are valid for life, and in some states, residents are allowed to carry handguns without their permit.

Another difference is the attitude toward guns in America versus in Israel. In America, owning a gun is a right, it’s a part of our constitution, a sacred freedom. It is a reckless fetishization. In Israel, owning a gun is a responsibility and a privilege. It’s a tragic necessity because Israelis live in a region of conflict.

Unlike in America, Israeli schools are each guarded by one armed guard, and every school trip is escorted by an armed guard. Metal detectors and guards are at the entrance of all public stores and areas, and major public events have to be approved by the police.

Although guns are more visible in Israel due to the military presence, Israel only has 7.3 guns per 100 civilians, while America has 89 per 100 civilians, the highest rate in the world.

“It is completely tragic that I have to carry a gun at night and when I go out to feel safe,” former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) paratrooper commander and current explosive expert in the reserves Avi Lurie stated. “The army cements the idea that guns are to kill. [Trained gun owners] know what we are capable of.”

“America needs to learn a gun is not a toy,” former IDF shooting instructor Ashley Offenheim echoed.

So what can America learn? That as we can see from Israel, training, restrictions, and eligibility aren’t equivalent to guns being completely taken away. Gun laws don’t necessarily mean the end to our freedoms or to our constitutional rights. What I’ve come to realize is that for Israelis, carrying a gun is a matter of survival, while for most Americans, a gun is an abused constitutional right.