by David Safier
In August I wrote a column in the Explorer about gun laws in Israel. The way Israel deals with the private ownership of guns is worth looking at again after yesterday's shooting.
This isn't meant to be a pro- or anti-Israel statement. It's not saying we should adopt Israel's policies, since they wouldn't fit this country well. But Israel is on a constant war footing. It's a place where its citizens reasonably consider every paper bag or package left on a bus or a park bench to be a threat. Yet in a country where people have far more reason than we do to argue they need to arm themselves for protection, it's very difficult to own a gun.
There are three basic categories of people who can get gun licences in Israel: people who reached a high military rank, people who have reason to fear they'll be harmed (like those in businesses that deal in cash and jewelry, licensed bus drivers, people living in dangerous areas) and people who have guns handed down to them from family members -- and then only a few guns.
Licenses generally allow for only one firearm, usually a pistol. Getting a license means going through an extensive background check, having a personal/psychological interview and passing a weapons training course. The license has to be renewed every three years.
After all that, licensed gun owners can only buy 50 rounds of ammunition a year.
Despite the obvious dangers in Israel, it hasn't adopted our notion, "the more guns the better." Maybe we can find reasonable ways to keep guns in private hands but tone down the most dangerous aspects of our gun culture.