Friday's unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, put gun control back on our national agenda. For now, pro-gun advocates are mostly keeping quiet, but we're already starting to hear the inevitable response: "Guns aren't the issue. Look at Israel. They've got lots of guns and little gun-related violence." There's only one problem with this argument:
It's not true.
So the next time someone tells you that, "Israel shows we don't need gun control," here's what to tell them:
1) Israel has a lot fewer guns than we do.
Fact. Israel has 12 times fewer guns per capita than America. Let me say that again: twelve times. In order to reach the same rate of gun ownership here as in Israel, we'd have to get rid of approximately 247 million guns.
2) Israel bans assault rifles.
That law we allowed to expire in 2004? Israel's got it. And no one there argues they need a semi-automatic to hunt ibex.
3) Israel has no individual right to bear arms.
Israel has no Second Amendment. And no one I ever met when I lived there believes that they need a gun to be safe from the central government. True, this may be because Israel is beset on all sides by enemies bent on its total annihilation rather than, say, Canada. Nevertheless, Israel controls who has a gun much more strongly than the Supreme Court has said our Constitution allows.
4) Israel sharply limits ammunition purchases.
5) Israelis view gun ownership as a burden.
I was clerking at the Israeli Supreme Court when our Supreme Court handed down District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment contained individual right to bear arms. In discussing the case with many Israelis, I was struck by their views on guns.
Most Israelis would like nothing more than to have a country where they needn't carry guns, where they live in peace. Most Israelis are not gun "enthusiasts"; they're reluctant warriors. And they've been dreaming of the day they can turn their weapons into plowshares for thousands of years.