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November 17, 2008

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."


  1. Gerald Steinberg might want to look into the matter further before he makes such absurd statements. Here is an interesting article from famed American police officer Massad Ayoob. It's a bit old, but it still drives home an important point:


    "In the last two years especially, street terrorist attacks in Israel have repeatedly been shortstopped by armed Israeli citizens. A terrorist opens fire at a crowded bus stop; a passing Israeli motorist draws his 9mm pistol and cuts him down. A late-arriving security man with an M-16 hoses the twitching terrorist just to make sure.

    Another terrorist attempts to trigger an explosive device in a public place. An Israeli housewife draws her pistol and shoots him dead before he can detonate the bomb. The would-be martyr dies alone.

    A third terrorist opens fire with an automatic weapon in an Israeli school. What could have been a mass murder on the scale of Columbine or greater is limited to a very short casualty list when Israeli parents and grandparents, who have provided volunteer armed security after receiving state training, open fire and kill him with their concealed pistols.

    Note that in each of these episodes, it was an armed citizen who stopped the terror. Not a soldier. Not a security guard. Not a police officer. Just as wolves do not try to seize a lamb under the nose of the sheepdog, terrorists do not strike where armed protectors are known to be present. They scout the turf and select their victims more carefully than that.

    Israel began the program of armed citizen guards in the schools after the Maalot massacre in the 1970s, when a large number of children were slain in a terrorist incident. The volunteer parents work in plain clothes, armed with concealed semi-automatic pistols, and are trained by Israel’s home guard. It is significant that in the more than a quarter century between Maalot and the incident mentioned above when the citizen guards shot down the terrorist in the school in 2002, not a single child was murdered in an Israeli school!

    The reason is that Israel wisely publicized the fact that the civilian volunteer guards, indistinguishable from the regular teaching and administrative staff, would be in place. It served as a tremendously effective deterrent. No Moslem fanatic who wants to go to Allah as a successful warrior who has slain many infidels visualizes himself making the trip after having been shot down by some geriatric with a gun before completing his mission. Any head trip as arrogant as that of a self-styled martyr cannot tolerate the thought of an ignominious death at the hands of an ordinary victim. It would be like a wolf picturing its own throat being torn out by a sheep: simply unthinkable, and therefore a natural deterrent."

  2. Thanks for your comment, the staplegunkid9. I don't think we would describe Massad Ayoob as a "famed police officer." He has achieved more notoriety as the head of the Lethal Force Institute, a school which emphasizes "responsible, advanced training in the use of defensive deadly force by private citizens." His business has been in operation since 1981. - CSGV