Israel Has Fewer Guns, Fewer Deaths Than U.S.

Strict Laws May Reduce Risks, Contrary to Gun Lobby Claims

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 11, 2013, issue of February 15, 2013.
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Nine days after the Newtown, Conn. massacre in which 20 children died, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, broke his group’s long silence with a bristling attack against gun regulation that included a theme heard frequently among gun rights advocates.

Mixed Message: IDF soldiers often carry guns openly, but Israel has some of the strictest gun laws for civilians — and very low rates of gun deaths. Pro- and anti-gun activists argue about what these facts mean
Mixed Message: IDF soldiers often carry guns openly, but Israel has some of the strictest gun laws for civilians — and very low rates of gun deaths. Pro- and anti-gun activists argue about what these facts mean

“Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing,” LaPierre said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They said, ‘We’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school, and they have not had a problem since then.”

LaPierre made the analogy because he thinks that America should bring armed guards into its schools, too. Trouble is, Israeli officials strongly reject this argument.

Just one day after LaPierre’s appearance, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Jerusalem Post: “We’re fighting terrorism, which comes under very specific geopolitical and military circumstances. This is not something that compares with the situation in the U.S.”

Gun rights advocates have nevertheless persisted in citing Israel as a country with gun policies that America should emulate.

Yet, oddly enough, gun control advocates have done so, too.

While supporters of gun rights point to the widespread use of arms for civil defense in Israeli society, arms control advocates cite the strict measures that Israeli law imposes on civilian gun ownership outside the military.

LaPierre’s invocation of the “whole lot of school shootings” that Israel experienced, moving its government to put “armed security men in every school” may play to American images of Israel as a land beset by constant terrorist attacks. But it is factually incorrect.

The country’s only large-scale terror attack against a school occurred in Ma’alot, near the Lebanon border in 1974, when Palestinian assailants killed 22 children and three adults at an elementary school. The attackers’ goal was to take the children hostage and trade them for jailed militants.

In 2008, another Palestinian assailant killed eight young people, most of them teens, at a nighttime study session at a Jewish religious seminary in Jerusalem. An off-duty soldier who happened to be in the area killed the attacker with his personal firearm.


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