"This is a widespread phenomenon," said the manager of a shooting range located in an Israeli settlement, who says he knows dozens of gun owners who are waiting for their licenses to be renewed. "The Ministry of Public Security's office has an atomic mess regarding the issue," he said.
Kobi (44), a resident of the Israeli settlement Elazar located in Gush Etzion and father of six, said he has been trying to renew his arms license since March but to no avial.
"As usual, they sent me a request to renew my license and I did all the steps necessary: A doctor's approval, shooting range and payment by mail, and ever since I have been running after them," said Kobi.
"They said the magnetic card with the renewal will arrive within 60 days. I contacted the Public Security Office's telephone service center several times, which is the only way to contact them, and they said, 'the license is on the way, don't worry.' Later on, they admitted there was a problem. Then they promised a temporary renewal but that also did not happen. In recent weeks, I've contacted them every day and the answer is always, 'We'll get back to you.' But nothing has happened," Kobi said.
Kobi has had an arms license since his military service, but in the first months he kept his gun in a safe. However, two months ago there was in infiltration attempt into the Alazar settlement where he resides.
"We are required to renew our licenses every 2-3 years and in the past I did not come across this kind of conduct. More than anything, I feel exposed. This country is in a fantasy. This situation is occurring during a security situation with high tensions and despite the guidelines of the heads of the settlements, the IDF and the police that those who have licenses should carry their weapons. But it seems that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing," said Kobi.
Last year, after a series of murders, particularly of women by their husbands, who were carrying weapons in their capacity as security guards, the Ministry for Public Security initiated a reform that limited the ability of security guards and citizens to bear arms. Part of the reform, which was made after public criticism of the ease in which citizens could obtain a license, made more strict criteria in order to obtain a license and a renewal. Now it seems that the reform caused a radical shift of the pendulum to the opposite side.
Eitan Lewis (34) a resident of Shilo settlement in the Shomron Regional Council in the northern West Bank has had a license to bear arms since 2000, and has reported a similar situation to Kobi's portrayal.
"In the past, there were no problems. Within a week or two from the time you filed the paperwork you received the license renewal. This time, I did not receive a request to renew my license at all and so I learned afterwards that my license was no longer valid. In the end, after much effort, I finally received a temporary license on a piece of paper but the permanent license has still not arrived after months," said Lewis.
The Ministry of Public Security said in response: "We are in the midst of launching an updated system to air. The office is making every effort to give efficient service to all holders of firearms with an emphasis on those who make a living using them. Unlike in the past, the new system for issuing licenses for security guards is done automatically, in a mechanized and efficient manner. The office is working to improve and streamline the service given to the public and this includes a significant increase in the personnel department in order to shorten waiting time for service until the new system is implemented. We would like to emphasize that all citizens with arms licenses for personal use have been issued an extension of their license so as to prevent them from holding a license that is not valid."