Knesset passes law allowing police to search for illegal weapons with no warrant

Legislation that will allow police to search for illegal weapons without a warrant was approved Tuesday night in a final vote in the full Knesset, passing 20-6 with support from both coalition and opposition lawmakers.

The temporary law will apply for 12 months and is intended to give police tools to combat illegal arms trafficking to combat rising violent crime, particularly in Arab communities.

The legislation also increases the severity of penalties for those caught with illegal weapons, allowing for fines as well as up to 10 years in prison.

A similar bill to increase penalties for the possession and purchase of illegal weapons passed first reading last year, under the previous government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid.

That bill was also intended to help fight crime in Arab communities, where illegal weapons prevail, and where violence has surged in recent years, driven mainly by organized crime. Arab leaders and members of the public blame police, who they say have failed to tackle powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, including family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence in the face of women.

The communities have also suffered from years of state neglect, with many suffering from poor infrastructure and poor public services. Many members of Arab communities live below the poverty line.

According to a 2020 Knesset report, there are approximately 400,000 illegal firearms in circulation in Israel, the vast majority in these communities.

The new legislation borrows from the 2022 bill, which spells out provisions that extend prison time for offenses involving weapons that contain substantial parts from conventional weapons. It also created seizure provisions for offenses including the manufacture and trafficking of illegal weapons.

The new legislation, submitted by MK Yitzhak Kroizer of the far-right party Otzma Yehudit and supported by opposition Yisrael Beiteinu, will help to “reduce the number of illegal weapons used by criminal organizations… by providing tools for Police Israel and other law. enforcement authorities,” according to the text of the proposal cited by Haaretz.

It will allow a warrantless search of any residence or establishment reasonably suspected of finding weapons or weapon parts in cases where a court order cannot be obtained immediately, and where there is reasonable suspicion that a serious crime has been committed and that security camera footage may be recovered , for example.

Warrantless searches can only be conducted with the approval of an officer in command rank or higher, according to the law.

During the 12 months the law will be in effect, law enforcement agencies will report to the Knesset National Security Committee and the Attorney General’s Office three times a year on their use of the operational tools, including the number of warrantless searches conducted and the suspects. offenses under which authorization was given, the number of indictments in which the warrantless search was authorized, as well as the number of weapons seized.

At the end of 2021, the police carried out what they said was the largest weapons bust in Israeli history, seizing weapons and arresting a dozen gunmen.

According to the non-profit Abraham Initiative, which tracks violent crime in Arab communities, 39 Arabs have been killed in suspected murders this year, and 116 last year.

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