The Knesset Constitutional Committee on Monday approved for legislation a measure that would provide a jail sentence of up to five years for individuals who illegally shoot guns in a manner that endangers individuals. The law would apply to anyone who opens fire in residential areas, highways, shopping areas, or anywhere else that could place people in danger.
The law was authored by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and was inspired by a recent spate of incidents in the Arab sector in which individuals, brandishing weapons, shot into the air on highways in northern and southern Israel. In one infamous incident, Bedouin youth in the Negev were shown firing automatic weapons into the air as they drove down a busy highway. The footage, of Bedouin youths firing automatic weapons on a main highway in the Negev as part of a “wedding celebration,” shocked Israelis. Police arrested two people in this incident.
Pinny Badash, head of the Omer local council, said in a radio interview in response to that incident that “we have simply lost control” of the Bedouin and Arab population. “We hear the gunshots every night and weekend, and we often find stray bullets in Omer fired from the neighboring villages. Just recently one of those bullets was shot into someone’s living room. We have sought help from the police, but to no avail. In any event, the punishment for crimes that these people commit is so light as to be laughable. In one case, a person was arrested 40 times for car theft, and did not serve one day in prison. I do not understand how such a strong country surrenders to this kind of terror.”
Until now, brandishing weapons – and often even firing them – was not covered by any law. Cases in which discharging firearms was not illegal included firings in areas where there were no residences or businesses. The maximum penalty for firings that did endanger others was a year in prison. The new law tightens regulations and imposes a longer penalty for a wider variety of shooting scenarios, Erdan said.
Commenting on the approval, Erdan said that it was “another important step in the struggle against illegal arms possession and firings, in the south and in the rest of the country. It is time that judges understand that the public expects the criminals who fire these weapons to be imprisoned for many years. With this law, we provide new tools for the courts and police to combat the issue of illegal weapon firings, especially in the Bedouin and Arab sector,” Erdan added.