Netanyahu Talks a Good Game About
Independence and Self-Defense, But . . .



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By Kurt Hofmann, April 22nd 2015
JPFO writer contributor, © 2015.

Speaking Monday to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) General Staff Forum, about tomorrow's upcoming Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said something that at first blush might warm the hearts of gun rights advocates everywhere. According to the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu said that "the meaning of independence in my eyes is the ability to defend yourself."

Stirring words, and indisputably true--one cannot be independent if one must, well . . . depend on others for one's protection and security. Well, perhaps "indisputably" is not the right word, some do dispute it--just not very convincingly.

Former Congressman Allen West's (R-FL) website ran a piece positively gushing that Netanyahu "gets it" about independence and armed self-defense. Well, let's not get carried away.

The only problem with Netanyahu's bold statement in favor of self-defense is that it comes without any noticeable effort on his part to reform Israel's very restrictive gun laws. That last sentence might come as something of a surprise here in the U.S., where many seem to believe that Israeli citizens enjoy quite light regulation of their right to keep and bear arms. According to (a site run from a strongly anti-gun perspective, but still offering a great deal of useful information about gun laws around the world), the reality is far less rosy.

Right away, we see that in Israel, there is no equivalent to our Second Amendment: "In Israel, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law." Possession of both handguns and long guns is regulated by law, licensing is required for possession of guns and ammunition, and, tellingly, a prospective gun licensee must provide the authorities with a "genuine reason"--a need for firearms. Compare that to here, where the requirement for a "genuine reason" to carry (not merely own) a firearm, even in "gun control" paradise California, is being fought in federal courts--and rights advocates won the first round.

And we're just getting started. Minimum age for legal gun ownership is 21, and that's for those with military experience--the rest must wait until they're 27. The background check looks into not only an aspiring gun owner's criminal history, but his mental, and even physical health history. And on, and on, including a limit on the quantity of ammunition a gun owner may possess.

Given Netanyahu's apparent at least tacit tolerance--if not active approval--of such highly restrictive gun laws, when he speaks of "self-defense," he is talking about the national government's ability to defend the country from outside threats. He is not referring to individual citizens defending themselves and their families from violent criminals, and is certainly not referring to the people's ability to resist a government that seeks to slip the leash of the constitutional limits on its power.

In the wake of several high-profile attacks on Jews in Europe by militant Islamic extremists this past winter, there have been some voices calling for European Jews to arm themselves--to, as Netanyahu might put it, break their dependency on the government's ability to protect them from evil. European gun laws are unlikely to change to allow that any time in the foreseeable future. Inexcusably, prospects for such a change in Israeli gun laws seem rather weak as well.

A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.

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