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In Afghanistan, it was a bit of problem when raiding homes etc., because many Afghans had firearms, so just finding a hidden AK-47 in someone's home wasn't a clear indicator if he was Taliban or not. (And yes, it was illegal to own such, and made owners subject to arrest by the Western-supported gov't. And yeah, RFERL reported such weapons even being used against the Taliban, when they conducted raids.)

I'm curious how is the guns situation in Gaza. Do 'ordinary' Gazans have firearms much, legal or otherwise? Or did Hamas manage to exercise tight control in this regard?

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    Firearms? Or automatic assault rifles/military-level gear? Heck, even in SecondAmendmentLand™️, a real, auto-capable, AK47 would raise a few eyebrows. Nov 7, 2023 at 4:52
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I'm no arms expert, but is it that different to the AR-15 that every american in the bible belt owns? Or it would raise eyebrows because of being a soviet, rather than american, design?
    – Rekesoft
    Nov 7, 2023 at 10:33
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    @Rekesoft The difference is in the "auto capable", but bump stocks can actually add that as an add-on to those AR-15s as well. Nov 7, 2023 at 13:30
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    @Rekesoft You certainly are no expert, that's for sure. AR-15 or AK-47 doesn't matter. The auto part of it does: full auto guns are illegal in the US. Yes, you can modify a neutered gun back to that capability. But it's also illegal. Hard to believe, to oppress poor Americans that much, eh? Nov 7, 2023 at 15:42
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    FWIW, Afghanistan has been in a hotter or cooler shooting war, almost continuously, for more than four decades. Gaza has been at odds with Israel for even longer, but only a very small percentage of that time period has been an actual live shooting war.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 7, 2023 at 16:55

1 Answer 1

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"Ordinary" Palestinians have a low firearm ownership rate by global standards, and a majority of all guns in Gaza and the West Bank combined (the finest level of detail available) are government owned. The numbers below aren't broken down between the West Bank and Gaza.

I suspect, but don't know, that private gun ownership is lower in Gaza (whose imports of firearms are more easily interdicted by the Israeli government) than in the West Bank. Also, gun ownership globally tends to be higher in rural areas like most of the West Bank, and lower in densely populated urban areas, like most of the people in the Gaza Strip. For reference purposes, there are about 2.3 million people outside Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and about 1.8 million people in the Gaza Strip. I suspect that significantly less than 40% of privately owned guns in the West Bank and Gaza are in Gaza.

As of 2017: The estimated total number of guns (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Palestine is 56,000 (probably significantly less than 22,000 in Gaza). In a comparison to the number of privately owned guns in 206 countries, Palestine ranked at No. 159.

The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) per 100 people in Palestine is 1.10. This private gun ownership rate is probably lower in Gaza. In a comparison to the rate of privately owned guns per 100 people in 206 countries, Palestine ranked at No. 167. By comparison, 40% of Americans live in a household with civilian firearms (that rises to 58% in the rural U.S.).

The defense forces of Palestine are reported to have 44,410 firearms. Police in Palestine are reported to have 33,000 firearms.

It isn't manifestly obvious that some guns owned by "civilians" aren't actually owned by people affiliated with armed terrorist groups, as opposed to owning firearms merely for private self-defense.

I couldn't find any reliable data on the types of guns owned by civilian Palestinians.

This low rate of private gun ownership is mostly due to the fact that there are essentially no legally recognized small arms manufacturers in the West Bank or Gaza, and imports of small arms and ammunitions are tightly regulated by Israel (mostly for government use) to about $140,000 per year of small arms and ammunition imports. Israeli import regulation is Gaza is particularly effective since it is basically a walled city with Israel's navy tightly controlling maritime trade with Gaza.

The Hamas regime does regulate firearms, but external limitations on the importation of firearms there imposed by Israel is the bigger factor. Another factor, which also impacts illicit small arms imports, is that the people of Gaza aren't affluent. The only other places in the world outside of Africa that are comparably poor (judged by demographic estimates that escape the complications of factors like currency exchange rates) are war torn Yemen and Afghanistan.

Hamas can have the arsenal that it does (which still isn't impressive by international military standards) only with illicit arms supplied on a subsidized basis to it by Iran, or facilitated by Iran.

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    For comparison, the same source put Afghanistan (2017) at 12.52 guns per 100 people, so about 10 times more density than for Palestine. They put the US at 120.5. Nov 7, 2023 at 14:17
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    @Fizz That puts US private gun ownership at over 100x Palestine's private gun ownership.
    – David S
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:52
  • "whose imports of firearms are more easily interdicted by the Israeli government" - they still managed to sneak thousands of rockets; I guess firearms are even easier. This may not translate to "ordinary Gazans" directly, but I strongly suspect the estimation can easily be an order of magnitude off.
    – Zeus
    Nov 8, 2023 at 7:23
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    @Zeus The availability of large quantities of guns to Hamas troops does not mean Hamas, a dictatorship, remember, would relish the widespread availability of guns to the populace. Ugh, I feel dirty saying this, I almost sound like a Second Amendment nutter. Nov 8, 2023 at 8:59
  • @Zeus We know, as a matter of certainty, that it is possible to smuggle rockets and small arms into both the West Bank and Gaza. This does nothing, however, to alter to conclusion that it is easier to smuggle arms into the West Bank (e.g., over a much less thinly patrolled and enforced border with Jordan) than it is to smuggle arms into Gaza. This is all that the quoted language is saying. Also, import controls are the reason that Hamas has, e.g., no tanks, no armored vehicles, no self-propelled howitzers, no purpose built anti-aircraft guns, no advanced radar, and no military aircraft.
    – ohwilleke
    Nov 8, 2023 at 16:35

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