Why Israel Has No Newtowns: It’s the Jewish state’s gun culture, not its laws, that prevents mass shootings
Why? In the days since 27 innocents, most of them children, were murdered in a Sandy Hook school, all have been asking that question, trying to make sense of an ultimately senseless act. Simpler minds insisted that anyone who has ever argued in favor of anything but the absolute abolition of firearms was complicit in the murder of innocent children, while more astute thinkers tried to look past their indignation and heartbreak in search of sensible policy alternatives. Not surprisingly, they often ended up looking to Israel, a nation, went the argument, whose citizens are heavily armed yet rarely use their guns to shoot each other. This, more than one report noted, was due largely to Israel’s surprisingly strict gun-control legislation: assault rifles are banned, registration is necessary, and a whole system of checks and requirements is in place to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. A popular statistic spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter: Only 58 Israelis were killed by guns last year, compared with 10,728 Americans.
It’s a compelling story. It’s also wrong: There’s much that we can learn from Israel when it comes to firearms, but it’s the state’s gun culture, not its gun laws, that keeps its citizens safe.
Let us, for the sake of argument, put aside the fact that nearly all Israelis serve in the army, and that virtually all soldiers are armed with semiautomatic weapons that they carry on their person at all times, even when back home on vacation. Most men continue to enjoy this unfettered access to arsenals for the duration of their service as army reservists (at least a few weeks out of each year until they’re 45). If we disregard the glutton of guns facilitated by the Israel Defense Forces, we are left with strict-sounding laws that require anyone who wants a firearm license to register with the government and meet a list of seemingly stringent conditions.