Fact check: No, Israeli students are not permitted to carry guns in school

The claim: Students in Israel can carry guns to class

Last month's shooting massacre in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 elementary school children and two teachers dead, has reignited the national debate about guns. It has also led to the spread of misinformation online.

Some social media posts claim Israel doesn't have school shootings because students carry guns to class.

A May 29 Facebook post makes that assertion and backs it up by including a photograph of a group of women in casual attire carrying firearms.

"No school shootings in Israel. Must be great gun control?" reads the post. "What, they carry guns to class - oh no, not that!"

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The post generated close to 13,000 interactions and 8,500 shares in less than a week. Similar posts have spread widely on Twitter.

But the claim is wrong on multiple fronts.

Officials told USA TODAY students in Israel are not permitted to carry guns to class, and experts said the picture presented as proof shows soldiers, not students.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Students not permitted to carry guns

Students and faculty cannot carry guns to schools in Israel, Elad Strohmayer, a spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, told USA TODAY in an email.

Only licensed, trained guards can carry guns at schools, according to Strohmayer. These guards are typically assigned to schools with 100 students or more and operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and the police. 

The guards are responsible for inspecting people and vehicles outside schools and, if necessary, may confront people who might attack the school. This requirement has been in place since 1995 as a counter-terrorism measure, the embassy spokesperson said.

Gun regulations are much more stringent and private gun ownership much less common in Israel than in the U.S., according to Scott Abramson, a current postdoctoral fellow of Israel studies at Northwestern University. 

According to Israel's Firearm Licensing Department, citizens have to "demonstrate a need" to get a license, and "anyone who wishes to carry a gun must meet a number of requirements." For instance, you have to wait until you turn 27 to get licensed unless you have performed government service. Citizens who have performed military service can apply for a license after they turn 18 while citizens who have done civil service can apply once they are 21.

Other requirements to obtain a firearm license include having a basic knowledge of Hebrew, a health declaration signed by a doctor and completion of firearm training.

"Bottom line: pre-army high school students and younger don’t have access to guns," Jeffrey Sosland, an Arab-Israeli conflict and cooperation expert at American University whose research includes the Israeli military, told USA TODAY in an email.

School shootings in Israel are rare compared to the U.S. because of these strict gun laws and anti-terrorism efforts, but they do occur, experts said. In 1974, an attack on an elementary school in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, a city in Israel, killed 22 children and three adults, according to the Associated Press. In 2008, a Palestinian gunman killed eight students at a religious college in Jerusalem, Reuters reported.

Picture shows soldiers, experts say

The image of armed women presented as proof of the claim in the Facebook post actually shows Israeli soldiers, experts told USA TODAY.

"That picture is of soldiers who are off duty, thus allowed to dress causal but required to keep their weapon with them," Sosland said.

Strohmayer confirmed the same origin.

USA TODAY could not independently verify the nature or location of the picture.

Fact check: Comparison of school shootings in the US, other countries uses old data

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that students in Israel can carry guns to class. Students in Israel are not allowed to carry firearms to school, as firearms are heavily regulated in the country. Only licensed, trained guards can carry guns at schools. Experts say a photo presented as proof of this actually shows off-duty Israeli soldiers.

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