November 13, 2019

Israel Has Lessons on Gun Violence for the U.S.

This weekend, in less than 24 hours, 22 people were killed in El Paso, Texas, and nine people were killed in Dayton, Ohio, as a result of gun violence. The latter attack marked the 250th mass shooting in the United States this year.

A mass shooting is defined as one in which a gunman kills at least four people.

Israel has had success in preventing such attacks, and, say experts, can provide guidance on how to prevent them in the future. Although many people in Israel carry guns, there are fewer mass shootings per capita than in the U.S. because of more restrictive gun regulations.

According to Israeli government statistics, about 40 percent of applica-tions for gun permits are denied.

Those that are granted are done so mainly in cases in which the licensing authority believes an individual has a specific need for a firearm. One example is Israelis living in communities in the West Bank, where there is the threat of Palestinian attacks on civilians.
Gun permits in Israel must be renewed regularly, and owners must undergo a psychological evaluation before receiving a weapon and at set intervals thereafter.

In 2018, Jerusalem passed legislation loosening restrictions on the ownership of guns, making them accessible to about 600,000 potential applicants — or about 1 in every 15 Israeli civilians. After suffering from years of terrorism, some politicians, particularly on the right, have urged Israelis to arm themselves.

Although the Israeli police this week announced that more than 3,600 weapons were confiscated and thousands of people arrested on related charges in the first half of 2019, there remain thousands of illicit arms throughout the country, especially in Arab communities.

Regarding the U.S., it is estimated that the number of privately-owned guns exceeds the population of the country.

“America is exceptional because of its attitude toward guns,” professor Jonathan Rynhold, deputy head of the department of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Media Line. “Any other country would see this as a threat to the well-being of its citizens and would put more restrictions on gun ownership.”

Besides more restrictive gun control, which limits who can own and carry a weapon, Rynhold said Israel views mass shootings differently than Washington, D.C., does and thus invests more resources into preventing them.

“In Israel, it’s a national security issue, as mass shootings are viewed as terrorist attacks,” Rynhold said. “In America, it’s about personal safety. The U.S. puts a lot of resources into what it calls homeland security.”

Danny Yatom, former director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, told The Media Line that it is time for the U.S. to change its attitude toward gun violence.

“Maybe the United States should view it as a terrorist attack, even though the one who squeezed the trigger is American,” Yatom said. “The murderer comes equipped with weapons to slaughter innocent people. That’s exactly what terrorism is.”

He added that if the United States invested the same amount of money and resources into stopping gun violence as it does to prevent al-Qaida-style terrorist attacks, it might have more success in curbing the former incidents.

Although Yatom praised the tactical response of the American SWAT teams to shootings, he said their main problem is that they arrive after casualties occur, which is too late.

“The first and foremost element in order to succeed in foiling terrorist attacks is [accumulating] accurate intelligence in real time,” Yatom said.
He noted that the biggest problem in the El Paso shooting, for example, was the failure of law enforcement to pick up on the killer’s messages on social media, indicating that he was about to carry out an attack.

Yatom advocated for the U.S. government to develop a system that is capable of combing through social networks and flagging individuals who could be potential shooters. Laws would then be needed to allow authorities to question a suspect before he or she carries out a shooting.

Yatom also recommended placing guards with firearms at the entrances to every public place people frequent, similar to Israel, where the government often pays for private security companies.
“Having armed guards trained to deal with people who are intent on shooting innocent people will prevent many of the successes these murderers have had,” Yatom said.

He also offered practical advice to business owners as well as to those who find themselves in a location with an active shooter.
The former should identify and secure vulnerable points in their establishments and install metal detectors, Yatom said. They can also build obstacles like a fence so that there are only one or two places for people to enter.

“This will help because it is easier to secure fewer places,” he stressed. “This also applies to schools and universities.”

For civilians caught in an active-shooter situation, Yatom advised people who are armed to try to stop the individual but only if they are trained to do so.

He suggested that everyone else hide and call the authorities as quickly as possible to apprise them of the situation.

Yatom concluded that in Washington, D.C., the gun lobby is a powerful force that pushes back against proposed laws from being enacted to curb gun ownership and violence. As a result, he said it should be the responsibility of the National Guard to assist in stopping the mass shooting epidemic in the United States.


This story was origionally published in themedialine.org