The Last Thing They Want

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the gun control debate is not restricted to the United States. I would like to share with you in its entirety a recent article written by Ralph Ahren from Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz:

Founder of Israeli NRA Seeks to Import American Gun Culture

While the gun lobby in the United States took a setback last week with the election of Barack Obama, who supports the ban of assault weapons, a group of Israeli-Americans are now trying to ease restrictions on gun ownership here in Israel. Modeled and named after the powerful but controversial Virginia-based National Rifle Association, it is unclear whether the Israeli NRA will be able to gather enough support to be in any way influential. Several experts have already voiced criticism of the group’s agenda.

“You hear about mob shootings in Netanya, where innocent people get killed, you hear about people being attacked with knives, with guns, with bulldozers,” said Joshua Moesch, who founded the group last week. “I think that having more responsible citizens out there with weapons is very important. The police can be the greatest in the world, but they can’t be everywhere at the same time.”

Under the banner of self defense, the Israeli NRA advocates “the right to carry a firearm for all law abiding, military-serving Israeli citizens,” as well as the expansion of what is known as the Shai Dromi law, which allows anyone who kills or injures an intruder on his or her property to be absolved of criminal responsibility. Other group goals include gun safety, self-defense courses, promoting shooting as a sport and creating police athletic leagues.

Moesch’s first step was to create a Facebook group and a Web site. The 29-year-old Beit Shemesh resident told Anglo File he wants to first see how much support he can expect from the Israeli public before taking further action. If his group sees “a reasonable showing,” the next move would be to register as a nonprofit organization and lobby to members of Knesset, he said.

Moesch, who immigrated to Israel from Vermont about six years ago, rejects the anti-gun lobby argument that more weapons would lead to greater violence. He counters by saying that compulsory army service makes Israeli society well acquainted with firearms, giving most people “a certain respect for guns.” He adds, “People know in most cases when to use and when not to use them. We don’t see many cases of off-duty soldiers getting into a fight in a club or something, using their guns to sort it out.”

Yet it remains doubtful whether pro-gun advocacy will become as important in Israel as it is in the U.S. “The general trend to transplant American ideas to other countries is often not successful or very useful,” said Gerald Steinberg, chairman of political studies at Bar Ilan University and an expert on American culture. The arguments put forward by the Israeli NRA are not convincing, he told Anglo File.

“We don’t need a situation where hundreds of people shoot in all kinds of different directions in the case of a terror attack. That’s the job of the police or the army,” Steinberg said. He said that if more people carried guns the chances of more people getting hurt would be greater than the chance of neutralizing an attacker more quickly. “The last thing we want in Israel is an American gun culture,” he added. “Israel has enough dangers, and making it easier for people on the street to carry guns is not what we need.”

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