Israel has established strict measures in response to armed attacks on its schoolchildren. But social media posts falsely claim there have been “no school shootings in Israel” and use a photo to misleadingly suggest students carry weapons to class. Only guards and other specific personnel — not students — can carry arms in Israeli schools.
A mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 was the deadliest at a U.S. school in a decade, and has once again sparked debate about gun laws and how to protect children in the classroom.
Comparisons also are being made to gun laws or regulatory measures taken in other countries, such as Israel, a nation that has a low number of school shootings as compared to the U.S. But as we’ve written before, some social media posts have spread misinformation about school security measures and gun control laws in Israel.
On May 29, the Independent Firearm Owners Association — which describes itself as “a gun rights, pro-privacy, pro-freedom organization” — shared a photo on Facebook showing young women walking with military-style guns. The caption reads, “No school shootings in Israel. Must be great gun control? What, they carry guns to class – oh no, not that!” The post received over 13,000 likes and 8,000 shares.
But the Facebook post and the tweets misrepresent the individuals in the photo. And it is not true that there have been no school shootings in Israel.
We don’t know when the photo was taken. But through a reverse image search, we found the photo had been posted in 2011 on Defence.pk — a self-described “one stop resource for Pakistan defence, strategic affairs, security issues, world defence and military affairs” — with the heading, “Pictures of Women in the Armed Forces.”
The blog identifies the women in the photo as members of the Israel Defense Forces.
The IDF is the combined military forces of Israel, consisting of three branches — ground forces, air force and navy — that function under a unified command.
For years, it has been common to see guns on Israeli streets being held or holstered by someone who appears to be an average civilian but is actually military personnel. But there have been alternating policies over the years regarding whether IDF members were allowed to carry their weapons at all times.
IDF soldiers — who are at least 18 and tend to stay on a military base during the week — were able to carry guns to civilian settings when they went home on weekends to prevent weapons theft and kidnapping up until 2006, according to a 2011 report on firearm access and ownership in Israel and Switzerland.
This restriction was reversed in 2016 after IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot issued an order that all IDF combat soldiers must carry their weapons — on or off duty, in uniform or out of uniform — in response to a rise in violence at the time.
The bottom line is the individuals in the photo shared on social media are not school kids taking weapons to class, but apparently trained members of the military.
Securing Israeli Schools from Attack
Though the number of school shootings in Israel is relatively low, there have been attacks involving Israeli schools or school buses since at least 2000, according to a list of violent incidents maintained by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
To protect schools and students from terrorist attacks and gun violence, Israeli law requires a guard to be placed in schools of 100 or more students, according to a report compiled for the Connecticut General Assembly in 2013 based on information from the Israeli Ministry of Education.
The guard must check the school site 30 minutes before classes start and check people and vehicles entering the school, with the authority to refuse entry to unauthorized visitors.
The guard — who is generally stationed at the school entrance — is responsible for security outside the school and must engage with an attacker in the event of “hostile activity.”
Israeli police are in charge of deciding if schools need mobile security to keep students safe, such as on-foot security, carried out within the institution, or motorized security conducted between educational institutions.
Schools also work with the IDF to conduct evacuation drills to prepare students for the possibility of a terror attack.
The Ministry of Education also provided funding to construct shelters and fences, add reinforced protection to school buses, hire and train the security guards, and provide professional psychological care to treat students’ emotional reactions to attacks.
Strict Gun Laws in Israel
While firearms are carried by military personnel throughout Israel, there are restrictions on gun ownership. There are far fewer private citizens in Israel who own guns than in the U.S.
In Israel, the Firearm Licensing Department of the Ministry of Public Security oversees the distribution of gun licenses to Israeli residents, agencies and organizations in compliance with the Firearms Law of 1949.
The law does not recognize a right to bear arms, and anyone who wishes to carry a gun must meet certain requirements and may need to demonstrate a need to carry one. Israel considers gun permits a privilege.
The preconditions for obtaining a personal firearm license in Israel state that the applicant must be over 27 years old, unless they have served in the military. A person who has served in the IDF can receive a firearms license in Israel at the age of 18. Those who served at least two years with the Sherut Leumi, a non-military national service, can obtain a license at 21. Permanent residents who are not citizens of Israel and have no military experience must wait until they are 45 years old.
An applicant for a firearm must have a health declaration — including a check for mental illness — signed by a medical doctor. The individual must also complete firearm training and may need to prove the firearm is needed for their occupation.
It takes about two weeks for requests to obtain a license to be processed, and the acceptance rate is about 65%, according to the Ministry of Defense.
Applicants with a history of criminal convictions, drug use, violent incidents and certain types of mental illness, involving hallucinations or suicidal tendencies, may be rejected. Applicants can also be denied due to an offense committed during military service.
In most cases, a license allows an approved applicant to obtain one pistol with a limit of 50 bullets. A license is granted for a specific firearm, and any additional firearm requires an additional license.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
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