While not illegal, it's really hard to own a gun in Israel
JERUSALEM — Had Nancy Lanza wanted to stockpile her guns in Israel, it would not have happened, said Yacov Amit, the head of Israel's Firearm Licensing Department.
Without coming right out and saying so, Israeli authorities have instituted a policy of making it as difficult as possible to request permission to possess a gun.
"There is no right to own firearms in Israel," Amit said, a 25-year veteran of the Israeli army. "It is a privilege we sometimes allow."
An official "policy of reduction," has been in place since 1999.
It is now almost impossible for any civilian to keep more than a single gun at home — a gun, not a rifle. The sale of assault weapons to civilians is prohibited.
In fact, the desire to collect firearms is on its own enough to raise a red flag for the licensing authorities.
This hardline attitude may surprise Americans who have visited Israel, and been unsettled by the sight of young people openly carrying submachine guns on city streets.
Trained soldiers, however, are carrying those submachine guns. And their weapons are not loaded.
In fact, it is illegal for any gun held at home to be loaded. There has been one mass shooting in the nation's history.
In Israel, 2.5 percent of the population — 150,000 people out of a national population of 7 million, possesses a gun. There are less than 2,500 registered hunters in the country.
The reason so few Israelis own guns is because the government makes it so difficult. Here’s how it works:
Had Nancy Lanza requested the permit to own a gun here, she would have had to start out by mailing in a request form. She would have had to prove she was older than 21. (If she was not an army veteran, she would have had to prove she was older than 27.) She would have had to prove she was registered at the national hunter's registry, which is run by the National Parks Service.
If that was the case, the Parks Service would have had to mail in, on her behalf, the firearm they recommended for her type of hunting.
All this, before the bureaucratic process even got underway.
"We allow very little hunting," Amit said. "We have to leave nature for the next generations, no? We give out almost no permits."
Almost half of all petitioners are turned down. "People have to fulfill certain criteria for us to consider them."
Lanza, in Israel, would most likely have had to prove she lived or worked in a perilous area, or needed the gun to protect her agricultural fields from predators.
Had her request been deemed acceptable, she would then have been presented — by mail — with a series of disclosure forms, granting the licensing board full access to all her physical and mental health records, her criminal history and any intelligence gathered on her by any government agency.
If no troubling questions were raised, at that point she might have been invited in for a personal interview.
Licensing personnel is authorized to request that any petitioner go to any expert — eye doctors, psychologists, orthopedists — before considering the request.
Only then, would she have been sent to a training course for the weapon that has been recommended for her use. No, her underage son could not have accompanied her to a firing range.
If the training course was successfully completed, an initial permit may have been issued — or may have been denied, without cause.
"Our concept of the privilege of possessing a gun is very different from the American idea," Amit said.
Every three months, the licensing board updates its information flow regarding all license holders.
As a result, if a licensed gun owner has undergone eye surgery or has moved or has changed jobs — anything, in fact, that might be exposed through Interior Ministry records of medical forms, she can expect to be invited in for a conversation.
If a complaint of any sort is filed against a licensed gun holder — for example, if a licensed gun owner is in divorce proceedings with no violent history and is presented with an injunction to remain away from the family home — the gun license is automatically revoked until the resolution of all legal matters.
The Interior Ministry marks all licensed guns so that any bullet they fire can be traced through the national registry.
Licenses have to be renewed every three years, pending practice training sessions in authorized, supervised groups.
Even weapons acquired through inheritance are severely restricted.
If a grandfather in possession of a legal license dies leaving a weapon to a grandchild, the grandchild either has to undergo the process outlined above, or state that the weapon will be retained as a "souvenir" — in which case it must be turned in and disarmed.
Even in those cases, the weapon must be re-licensed, and reexamined by the authorities, every three years.
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.