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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Furthermore, designated civilian security guards in areas of high risk, mainly West Bank settlements, are provided guns by the military for use as a local security force. The firearms are usually automatic and semi-automatic rifles, including Uzis, M-16s and Israeli-made Galil rifles.

In addition, following the second intifada and the rash of suicide bombings that occurred in 2000, many Israeli establishments, including stores, shopping malls and restaurants, placed armed security guards at their entrances, adding thousands of guns to the mix. According to estimates, there are nearly half a million guns in Israel, a number that includes privately owned weapons, those held by security and military servicemen and illegally owned guns.

Still, when comparing gun control measures in Israel with those proposed in the United States, the differences are striking. Recent proposals being introduced in Congress include a ban on sales of semi-automatic assault rifles, a limit on the size of bullet magazines and comprehensive background checks for buyers. Even if approved, these measures would significantly fall short of the strict rules in Israel.

Gun laws in the United Stated vary widely from state to state. Federal law only requires that gun dealers perform a background check of potential buyers to ensure they are not prohibited from owning a firearm. The prohibition applies only to convicted felons, fugitives, the mentally incompetent, illegal aliens or minors.

The background check requirement does not apply to those purchasing a gun from a private owner or at gun shows, which make up about 40% of all gun sales in the U.S.

The federal government also prohibits carrying guns in areas designated as gun-free school zones.

Gun-related violence in Israel remains low by international standards. In 2009, the death rate as a result of gun use in Israel stood at 1.86 per 100,000 people. In the United States it was almost six times higher, with 10.3 gun related deaths per 100,000 people.

Among Arab citizens of Israel, gun-related violent crime is significantly higher than in the rest of the population, a fact that experts see as tied to the abundance of illegal weapons in Arab towns.

There is no dispute over the facts, which show that Israel is a nation with strict gun control, significant gun availability and a low gun-related crime rate. It is the interpretation of these facts that splits gun control supporters and opponents.


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