Etikettarkiv | american

Israel has strict gun laws and guns are not common among civilians

Excerpts from an article in The Times of Israel from Dec. 24th 2012

israel flagIsrael rejects NRA’s claims concerning guns laws

 ”Israel’s policy on issuing guns is restrictive, and armed guards at its schools are meant to stop terrorists, not crazed or disgruntled gunmen, experts id Monday, rejecting claims by America’s top gun lobby that Israel serves as proof for its philosophy that the US needs more weapons, not fewer.

”Far from the image of a heavily armed population where ordinary people have their own arsenals to repel attackers, Israel allows its people to acquire firearms only if they can prove their professions or places of residence put them in danger. The country relies on its security services, not armed citizens, to prevent terror attacks.”

”Israel never had “a whole lot of school shootings.” Authorities could only recall two in the past four decades.”

”Because it is aimed at preventing terror attacks, Israel’s school security system is part of a multi-layered defense strategy that focuses on prevention and doesn’t depend on a guy at a gate with a gun.”

”Gun lobbyists who might think Israel hands out guns freely to keep its citizens safe might be less enamored of Israel’s actual gun laws, which are much stricter than those in the US. For one thing, notes Yakov Amit, head of the firearms licensing department at the Ministry of Public Security, Israeli law does not guarantee the right to bear arms as the US Constitution does.”

”Gun licensing to private citizens is limited largely to people who are deemed to need a firearm because they work or live in dangerous areas, Amit said. West Bank settlers, for instance, can apply for weapons licenses, as can residents of communities on the borders with Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Licensing requires multiple levels of screening, and permits must be renewed every three years. Renewal is not automatic.”

”The gap between Israeli gun ownership and US gun ownership is consequently staggering. A total of 170,000 guns are licensed for private use in Israel, or about one gun for every 30 adults.”

”By contrast, US authorities estimate that at least one-third of all American households have firearms — and in many cases, not only one.”

”Eighty percent of the 10,000 people who apply yearly for licenses are turned down, he said. In the US, people can purchase firearms from private dealers without a background check or a license of any kind.”

”In Israel, applicants must undergo police screening and medical exams, in part to determine their mental state, Amit said.”

Anybody who possesses a legally acquired gun waives the right to confidentiality, and authorities cross-reference for new information about the gunholder every three months.”

Arguments for gun control

For a Scandinavian it’s difficult to understand the attitude that many Americans have towards guns and gun control, but if I lived in Colombia, the Middle East, or maybe even in the US where pretty much any non-convicted adult can spontaneously buy one or more guns without much trouble – resulting in loads of guns in circulation also in the hands of criminals – then I too might feel the need to get a  gun to protect myself. But I live in Sweden and I’m only SO happy that we don’t have the same situation in my own country. I would consequently be against any kind of change towards more liberal gun laws where I live because I prefer to keep criminals away from guns. I wish Americans would understand why Europeans would dread to have American gun laws introduced to their countries. We have considerable lower homicide rates, which makes sense since it’s so much easier for a murderer to kill people if he can use firearms instead of knives, bombs (takes time, patience, skills and money to make) or his fists. I can also understand the frustration Americans have if they feel that their politicians play under different rules.

It’s truly wonderful to know that you can go out running alone late at night  without feeling you should be carrying a gun or a knife in your hand – so every change in our current gun laws would be for the WORSE.

Over here it’s hard to get hold of a gun or own a gun unless you can pass certain requirements, so I don’t feel the need to buy a gun myself for protection and I have personally never encountered a single person in my life in this country who has expressed such a need. That is surely a good thing and something we should try to maintain? There are lots of weapons over here though, and that’s because there are lots of hunters and many of them own more than one weapon (rifle). It’s of course tricky to change the laws in the US now when the harm (lots of uncontrolled guns in circulation) is already done, and it would equally be a nightmare to make the gun laws more liberal in Sweden now when we seldom need to fear guns in the wrong hands.

It’s interesting to read the arguments against gun control. I include some below:

– If one or more law-abiding citizens in the Cinema at Aurora, Colorado would have carried a gun for protection, then the damage that James Holmes did would have been reduced

So that is the goal for the nation? To reach a level where there are so many uncontrolled guns in circulation (not to mention that a person can store up 25 shotguns in his home without a single gun seller saying ”What?”)  that normal law-abiding people would feel the need to go protected even at the movies, while eating in a restaurant, on the beach, when taking your dog for a walk, etc? If there is a gun control, this could prevent criminals from obtaining guns in the first place, resulting in that we don’t need to carry guns for protection while living our every day lives.

– Criminals would get hold of guns anyway, like on the black market. They don’t stop using guns just because certain laws tell them to stop or for reading a sign that says ”Guns prohibited”. They are criminals for Pete’s sake!

This might be the case in America where loads of guns are already in circulation without much control, why there consequently is a large black market for weapons, but this is not the case in countries like Sweden. How could criminals ”get hold of guns anyway” if the laws prevent them from buying one, and when they can’t even acquire any from friends who also can’t get hold of guns? Don’t get me wrong because  there ARE guns in the wrong hands also in Sweden but the point is that the cases where guns are used for homicide is relatively low here, and especially compared with the US. I believe this is thanks to our gun control that we have had for generations.

But couldn’t persistent criminals get weapons if they really wanted through other means? Only if they have the right contacts and a great deal of good luck – both are hard to achieve. If they desperately want to cause a lot of damage and lack guns, they might want to use bombs but then they are obligated to have the know-how and to get the ingredients. They must also have the time to make experiments and willing to spend some time in jail if they get caught. This alone will prevent some people from taking such risks, but of course not all. One option is to smuggle in weapons from neighboring countries, but the problem is that it’s just as tough to get hold of guns over there, and there is a risk to get caught.

– Banning guns might create a potential risk for organized crimes, black markets and smuggling

So we should therefore make drug use and prostitution legal? No, we should make it hard for criminals to attain their goals, and if they transgress laws, they do this illegally and they risk charges. Some people think again for this reason. One way to smuggle guns into Sweden would be to transport them over the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, but how would you get hold of guns in Denmark in the first place? They have similar gun laws as in Sweden. We can only pray that no country in Europe will ever apply similar gun laws as in the US, resulting in more illegal weapons crossing our boarders (and if that happens, one could only hope for an extensive border control).

– Woman may have no means of self-defense from rape or other crimes

Women have also died from domestic violence where guns have been in use. Again, if criminals have a hard time obtaining weapons, then it will automatically be harder for them to commit such crimes and women have less need to defend themselves.

– Guns in the possession of citizens are an added protection against government tyranny. Just look at Germany in WWII!

Citizens in Sweden would of course NOTICE  and KNOW if the gun control laws would suddenly be amended to their disadvantage and to the advantage of politicians in rule. (Besides, this risk would be higher if the citizens would be voting for a person instead of a party – that normally must cooperate with yet other parties in order to get a majority rule.) Laws are not changed overnight and not without first publicly announcing them. Everything that concerns hunting, firearms, gun laws, etc is covered in the big hunting magazines, and they will naturally announce all changes which concern the world of hunting and firearms usage.

– The homicide rate is high in the US because it’s a melting post for so many different races and cultures, and not due to a liberal gun control

That is not a good argument unless you believe a certain race is more prone to commit crimes than others. If individuals and their ancestors have lived in the US for generations, then the race issue is no longer valid since they have been assimilated. What might be a factor however is RECENT IMMIGRATION (like the first and second generation of immigrants). You will find a lot of that in Europe where loads of people from a certain country immigrate to a certain country, often placed in the same city or suburb. Statistics sadly show that immigrants from the Middle East and the northern part of Africa commit crime more frequently than the rest of the population. In the last few years Sweden has received a lot of immigrants from Iraq.

– All violent crimes are not reported so the high rate in the US might also depend on this

Yes all crimes are not reported but one crime that is reported to a great deal in all countries is murder, and that’s what makes the statistics for homicide rather interesting. Countries that neglect to report such crimes would be countries that have a high homicide rate to start with. Statistics for homicide with guns would of course be the most interesting ones, but you will more often find statistics and charts where the homicide rate is not divided any further.

You can also kill people with knives, bats, etc. Should we try to ban and control those weapons as well?

It would be hard to control such objects, wouldn’t it? So totally unlike firearms which CAN be restricted and which potentially could kill more people at the same time than a knife ever could. Yes, knives, bats and bombs could also be used to kill people but this is not a factor that applies only for the US. This is a truth for all countries so the statistics are still fair. The homicide rate per country can give us a clue whether a liberal gun control has saved lives or not.

– Guns don’t kill people. People kill people!

Then it’s a good idea to prevent such people from obtaining guns! In that way YOU don’t feel the need to be protected.

– It’s my right as a citizen to own guns for me and my family’s protection. Why does the government prevent me from doing this?

It’s a government’s responsibility to make sure the citizens of a country can live in peace, and if possible (as it is in Sweden) without having to carry guns for protection. If we reach a state where we start to feel insecure due to the awareness that guns can be bought rather freely and therefore abound in the wrong hands all around us, then the government has failed with its mission.

– Anders Breivik in Norway managed to kill LOADS of people even though he was a member in a proper gun club

Yes, and I’ve never said the system is airtight. Most people kill someone they know, and those who are willing to kill strangers for no reason are oftentimes those who kill because of an ideology/evil religion or because they are totally disturbed and simply enjoy killing. Terrorists come to mind, and we also have odd fellows like Anders Breivik. He was a smart guy, he was not poor, not on drugs and he was not in a hurry. Those are not the typical factors in a murderer’s life. He had a license for three weapons; a Glock to be used in the gun club where he was a member, a semiautomatic Ruger rifle to be used in hunting and also a shotgun. The Norwegian police PST got a tip that Breivik bought aluminium powder and sodium nitrate from Poland (to build a bomb) but unfortunately they didn’t make a follow-up on the tip because Breivik had previously not been convicted for any crimes.  The idea was good though (seeking control of suspected substances) and this procedure could prevent future crime. Breivik ended up killing 77 people the year 2011. 8 of them through a bomb explosion in Oslo, and the rest (mostly young teenagers) on a little island outside Oslo. This tragic event will pull down the homicide rate for Norway tremendously. It’s impossible to always be protected against lunatics like Breivik. You would have to carry a gun around the clock and you wouldn’t be safe even then.

– Why is it so bad to be able to buy lots of guns? It is also sad that so many people are obese because of these sheer amount of forks and spoons available to them

This argument totally baffled me when I read it. So if we can’t prevent people from getting forks and spoons, then neither should we try to prevent people from getting guns? Is it possible to ban or control forks and spoons? NO, right? Is it possible to restrict guns through gun control laws and make it difficult for criminals to get hold of guns? YES! So why not doing exactly that? Isn’t the idea to save lives? Can a spoon in the hands of someone kill 10 people in 2 minutes? Can a gun in the hands of someone kill 10 people in 2 minutes? If we know that dangerous people could use guns for dangerous things, isn’t it a good idea to try to prevent such people from obtaining guns since we CAN?

– When the guns are removed from the law-abiding citizen, only criminals will have guns

Not if they are not able to get hold of guns due to severe restrictions and requirements. 

– Guns aren’t evil or the cause of violent situations. Like a hammer drives the nails, guns are the tools of these crazies

Some countries have gun control laws in order to prevent such ”tools” ending up in the hands of criminals. It seems like it’s working based on the statistics. 

– Disarming innocent people does not protect innocent people

Over here they don’t disarm people, because they can buy guns for hunting and target shooting if they pass the requirements. The requirements are tough and that will prevent many criminals from getting guns. So the idea is to disarm CRIMINALS and prevent them from getting guns. This will lead to a safe environment for INNOCENT people. Hard to see why this is not a good thing in all people’s lives. This of course works best in countries which have had a history of strict gun control laws for quite some time, so that weapons already in circulation will not be in use in the wrong hands.

– You can prove anything with statistics

Maybe, and I’ve read all kinds of silly statistics for pro-gun lobbyists, usually comparing one American state with another American state, as though this  could apply to the whole world.  But if statistics are fair, they could also reveal the truth and especially if several sources get similar results. The rule shouldn’t be ”if statistics work against you, then you don’t need to rely on them because you can prove anything with statistics”. The question is if we can find any statistics for that a liberal gun control reduces the homicide rate compared to other countries, and/or if statistics show that a strict gun control law (as the one in Sweden) reduces the homicide rate compared to other countries. When we look at various statistics and charts, for instance this or this or this or this (the latter is from 2012 and is more specific concerning firearms) then the US is always listed with a very high homicide rate per capita, and European countries much further down. It’s interesting to see that Canada, which is so close in culture and a neighbor country to the US, has a low homicide rate.

– In Switzerland it’s very common to own guns also for protection and they have a low homicide rate, so this shows gun ownership is not related to murder

There are some differences between the US and Switzerland. 1) Switzerland has MUCH STRICTER GUN CONTROL LAWS.  All military weapons (which are long-barreled) must be kept locked up, with their ammunition sealed, stored in a separate place, and strictly accounted for. Hence it is almost impossible to use these weapons for crime without detection. 2) Switzerland (one of the richest countries in the world) has none of the social problems associated with gun crime seen in other industrialized countries, like drugs or urban deprivation. The US is of course also one of the richest countries in the world BUT there are still many areas which are considered poor and where drugs are in much use. 3) In comparison Switzerland is a small country both in square meters and in population, and therefore easier to control. All the neighboring countries have the same strict gun control as is common in western Europe, so there is no great danger of guns smuggled across the boarders. More info:

Up until October 2007, a specified personal retention quantity of government-issued personal ammunition was issued, which was sealed and inspected regularly to ensure that no unauthorized use had taken place. In October 2007, the Swiss Federal Council decided that the distribution of ammunition to soldiers shall stop and that all previously issued ammo shall be returned. By March 2011, more than 99% of the ammo has been received. Only special rapid deployment units and the military police still have ammunition stored at home today.

Gun ownership in Switzerland is not universal; only 32 percent of the general population own guns. By comparison, this figure is 49 percent in the U.S. Handguns are also HIGHLY REGULATED. Even then Switzerland has both the highest handgun ownership and highest handgun murder rate in EUROPE.  The suicide rate in Switzerland is very high. You can buy ammunition at ranges, but there is a regulatory requirement that ammunition sold at ranges must be used there. More here .

Brief comments about the Swedish gun laws (similar in all Scandinavia)

The two reasons for owning guns in Sweden are due to hunting and for target shooting. If citizens one day would want guns for protection then I feel that the government has failed with its mission to produce a safe environment for us to live in. Today we don’t have to live with such fear (unless we have placed ourselves in risk groups, such as being criminals ourselves or by marrying criminals) and a good guess is that it’s due to the strict gun control laws. Many criminals might want to kill a person NOW, and they don’t have patience enough to be a member of a gun club for 6 months before they do it. This alone will prevent some people to kill others in a sudden rage when they are involved in a deep argument.

Over here you’re obligated to have control over your guns at all times (when not in use locked up in certain cabinets, weighing at least 150 kilos) and not lend them to anyone unless a certain license is made for the other person who is also obligated to pass strict gun requirements. There are basically two gun categories, for hunting and for sports (target shooting). All weapons are licensed with a few exceptions and the serial number of the weapon is written on the license.

Hunting; rifles and shotguns – One has to pass the hunter exam that includes a theoretical test concerning animals and hunting, and a practical safety test including  judging distances and a shooting. You would need some sort of written declaration from others that you are a law-abiding person, and you can apply for up to 4 licenses for long guns (rifles or shotguns).

Target weapons – You need to be an active member of a gun club that competes with the weapon you want to buy. For handguns you need to be a member of a gun club for at least 6 months and shoot three ”gold series” and a ”fast series”. Your club can then certify that you may own a gun for competition only. After 5 years one has to reapply. Owning guns for protection is not allowed and such exceptions are therefore extremely unusual. More info here

Yes, extra protection in form of guns might be needed in certain countries

Again, if I lived in an area or country where there was a high risk for violent crimes and/or robberies, then I too might choose to get a gun. There are many white farm owners in South Africa who feel the need to protect themselves with guns (or they might choose to leave the country) due to the high risk of being attacked. Just the mere fact that criminals KNOW those farmers are protected might prevent them (the criminals) from making any attempts to harm them. So yes, guns might not be a bad idea in such situations. Read more about such cases in South Africa here.

In Scandinavia however it would be a VERY BAD IDEA to make the gun laws more liberal, because that would change our countries from having a SMALL amount of guns in the wrong hands into countries with LOTS of guns in the wrong hands, causing more criminals to make offenses and more people to buy guns to protect themselves, which would lead to even more crimes. An evil circle. Since the homicide rate is low in Sweden it wouldn’t make any sense at all to gamble with the situation and start amending the gun laws. If we do, then an evaluation will likely show an increase of violent gun crimes but then it will be too late to revoke the damage. Instead we would have lots of guns in the hands of criminals and there is a long expiration date for guns. They can be used again and again, and found on the black market, and if we then try to save the situation by making yet another law that guns must be turned in, then criminals will not stand first in line to return them.

In summary, I understand the situation that America is in, but I hope Americans will not reason ”Gun control doesn’t seem to work here, and people now have the need to protect themselves, so this means strict gun control won’t work in any country”. I hope they don’t believe that liberal gun laws in our countries would be for the benefit of the citizens or reduce the homicide rate because that is NOT true and the statistics seem to confirm it. If there are countries which have had strict gun laws and therefore a low amount of guns among criminals, resulting in no need for citizens to protect themselves, then it’s good to keep it that way.  America might not have gun laws that I admire, but I admire and envy the country in so many other ways.