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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Actually, it's kind of hard to get a gun in Israel or Switzerland

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein interviews SUNY Downstate Professor Janet Rosenbaum - who unlike the rest of us has actually researched it - who tells him that it's actually not so easy to get a gun in Israel or Switzerland (as I wrote in an earlier post regarding Israel). This is from the second link.
Ezra Klein: Israel and Switzerland are often mentioned as countries that prove that high rates of gun ownership don’t necessarily lead to high rates of gun crime. In fact, I wrote that on Friday. But you say your research shows that’s not true.
Janet Rosenbaum: First of all, because they don’t have high levels of gun ownership. The gun ownership in Israel and Switzerland has decreased.
For instance, in Israel, they’re very limited in who is able to own a gun. There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel, and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements, do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of violence.
Both countries require you to have a reason to have a gun. There isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or so to assure them the reason is still valid.
The second thing is that there’s this widespread misunderstanding that Israel and Switzerland promote gun ownership. They don’t. Ten years ago, when Israel had the outbreak of violence, there was an expansion of gun ownership, but only to people above a certain rank in the military. There was no sense that having ordinary citizens [carry guns] would make anything safer.
Switzerland has also been moving away from having widespread guns. The laws are done canton by canton, which is like a province. Everyone in Switzerland serves in the army, and the cantons used to let you have the guns at home. They’ve been moving to keeping the guns in depots. That means they’re not in the household, which makes sense because the literature shows us that if the gun is in the household, the risk goes up for everyone in the household.
EK: As I understand it, there’s a stronger link between guns and suicide than between guns and homicide. And one of the really interesting parts of your paper is your recounting of the Israeli military’s effort to cut suicides among soldiers by restricting access to guns.
JR: Yes, it’s very striking. In Israel, it used to be that all soldiers would take the guns home with them. Now they have to leave them on base. Over the years they’ve done this — it began, I think, in 2006 — there’s been a 60 percent decrease in suicide on weekends among IDS soldiers. And it did not correspond to an increase in weekday suicide. People think suicide is an impulse that exists and builds. This shows that doesn’t happen. The impulse to suicide is transitory. Someone with access to a gun at that moment may commit suicide, but if not, they may not.
EK: I was surprised by one statistic in your article: You said that Israel rejects 40 percent of its applications for a gun, the highest rate of rejection of any country in the world. And even when you get approved, you say that “all guns must have an Interior Ministry permit and identifying mark for tracing.” That seems like it might make people think twice before they shoot from a gun they know the government can track.
JR: That’s a requirement. I don’t know a great deal about the ballistics issue there. But that is in the regulations.
EK: Israel and Switzerland are both small, highly cohesive countries. So some say that the difference in gun crime shows that there’s something about American culture that’s leading to these atrocities. Do you buy that?
JR: Israel is not a peaceful society. If there were a lot of guns, it may be even more violent. Israeli schools are well known for having a lot of the kicking and punching type of violence. I don’t know that Switzerland has that reputation. But Israel does, and it seems that the lack of guns promotes the lack of firearm violence rather than there being some nascent tendency toward peacefulness and cohesion. That cohesion may or may not exist, but not having guns prevents guns from being used in violence. People do still commit homicide and suicide but they do it with less lethal means. The most common form of suicide in Israel is strangulation, which is striking, because it’s not that common elsewhere.

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At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That research is incorrect, both for Switzerland and Israel. As far as Switzerland: the Swiss make a difference between gun OWNERSHIP and a permit to carry. Gun ownership is open to anyone without a criminal record. You get a one-time permit to purchase a gun (i.e. for every subsequent gun you need another permit). That allows you to purchase a gun, keep it at home, and take it to the shooting range for practice and contests. The six-month renewable permit the author mentioned pertains only to "Permit to carry", and you do indeed have to show cause for that. Aside from that, every body who served in the Army, at the end of their service (currently at age 32, used to be age 50 in previous decades), is given the option to keep their army issue assault rifle, for a nominal cost (i.e. the cost to convert the gun from selective fully automatic to semi-automatic only, approx. $60).

As far as Israel: it is incorrect that only settlers are given gun permits. Anybody who is a citizen, with no criminal record, and having served in the army (unless they immigrated too old to serve) is eligible for a permit. The only exceptions are immigrants in-country for less than 3 years. There have been a few newspaper articles in the Israeli press suggesting that approx. 10% of the population have gun permits.

Sal G.
Passaic NJ

At 12:19 AM, Blogger HaDaR said...

She is misinformed and considers only PRIVATE gun permits both in Israel and Switzerland (in Switzerland all homes have an automatic rifle given to them by the army for the National Reserve).
The large majority, really large, of guns in the hands of private citizens in Israel are guns (both handguns and automatic assault rifles) given by the army.
In almost every home in Israel there's a gun, YET it is almost unheard of that those guns are played with or used by kids to commit crimes.
She forgot to mention states like Finland, where guns are ubiquitous, or Vermont, that doesn't even have gun laws, where everyone can buy and carry, and that is at the 49th place in the US as violent crime and gun crimes.


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