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Settlers Say: Give Us Back Our Guns, Now!

Human rights group asks government to ease restrictions on bearing of arms in Judea and Samaria, in wake of quadruple murder.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 9/2/2010, 8:04 PM / Last Update: 9/2/2010, 8:32 PM

Flash 90

If ever there was a populace that deserved to carry guns for self-protection, the Jews of Judea and Samaria would appear to be it. However, the government heaps obstacles on Jews who wish to pack pistols. The Human Rights in Judea and Samaria organization and the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel are trying to do something about this, following the murderous attack Tuesday which killed Yitzchak Imes and three others (four, including an unborn infant). Imes's gun license had been taken away by police and he was left defenseless when terrorists struck.
 
In a letter to Attorney General Weinstein, Nachi Eyal, CEO of the Legal Forum, wrote in a letter to to the Attorney General that "it is hard to shake off the impression that had his license not been suspended, Yitzhak Imes, his wife Talia, and their two passengers, might still be alive today."
 
In April Attorney, Yitzchak Bam, a member of the Legal Forum and a personal friend of Imes, appealed the suspension of Imes' firearms license. By law, Attorney Bam should have received a response to his appeal within 45 days. However, when Yitzchak Imes was murdered on August 31, the authorities had not yet answered as to why his license was still suspended. 

According to the Human Rights in Judea and Samaria non-profit organization (NPO), numerous other residents of Judea and Samaria are forced to travel on the roads without guns, because of restrictive government policies that assume residents accused of violence are are guilty until proven innocent. With terror attacks on the rise again, the NPO said, the matter is an urgent one.

The NPO sent a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai Thursday, focusing on the case of Uri Amseli, a resident of Kiryat Arba whose gun was taken away from him. Amseli's lawyer, Attorney Naftali Wurtzberg, stated in an attached letter that Amseli is a combat soldier who is a member of the Kiryat Arba first-response platoon, who received a commendation for his heroism in the battle in which Hevron commander Col. Dror Weinberg was killed, along with 11 others, in late 2002.

Wurtzberg said that all of Amseli's attempts to regain his gun license have sunk in the mire of bureaucracy. Amseli has repeatedly petitioned the courts to give him back his gun, which Wurtzberg says was taken away without a clear reason.

In a previous letter to the Minister of Interior and to the Minister of Public Security, Yitzchak Aharonovich, Human Rights in Judea and Samaria chairperson Orit Strook demanded that the police change its policy of taking away a gun license immediately after a criminal complaint is lodged against a person, instead of waiting for the proceedings to end. “The Judea and Samaria regions are saturated with Palestinian weapons,” she wrote. “There has been no corresponding effort to collect weapons from the Palestinian population in these areas.”

Following Strook's letter, Minister of Interior Eli Yishai instructed the Head of Population Administration to ease the issuing of gun permits to residents of Judea and Samaria.

Israeli policy favored the granting of gun licenses in the first decades of the country's existence, as part of a general national posture of deterrence. Since the early 1980s, however, the issuing of gun licenses has been restricted for residents of Judea and Samaria and for Israelis in general. The Ministry of Justice's 1982 Karp Commission determined that Jews in Judea and Samaria were given too much freedom to carry and use guns. 

Subsequent committees curtailed the issuing of gun permits in general. Using inflated statistics regarding domestic violence, prominent leftist-feminist legislators like former MK Zehava Galon of Meretz contended that Israeli men were not to be trusted with guns, which they might use to kill their wives.