One of the most misunderstood aspects of daily life in Israel relates to guns. It's a topic that, sadly, is again in the news after this week's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Many visitors to Israel assume that the country has little gun control, if any. Tourists are surprised by the abundance of soldiers, typically in uniform but sometimes in T-shirt and jeans, walking around with assault rifles slung casually over their shoulders.
But as law professor Dr. David Weisburd of Hebrew University explained to us when we interviwed him for our book, Israel has very strict gun control policies. To qualify for a license, a person needs to prove s/he needs a weapon. Examples include security personnel, tour guides who lead groups into secluded and dangerous areas, and veterinarians who work with potentially threatening animals.
But even then, according to The Times of Israel, forty percent of applications are rejected. Those who are approved can own one gun at a ti
me, and almost always a handgun (no rifles or automatic weapons). Ammunition is capped at fifty bullets per purchase.
Do Israel's gun laws work?
The country's homicide rate is less than a third of America's.
Part of this is due to Israel's gun laws, but Professor Weisburd points out that there's a sociological factor too. "Israelis have experience with
guns primarily through the army," he says. "Though young soldiers might first 'enjoy' the idea of having a gun, they soon come to see it as a responsibility, one that is necessary for national protection."