Israel could allow up to 500,000 more civilians to carry guns

Men shoot at a gun range in Jerusalem in October 2015.

Jerusalem (CNN)Israel has relaxed the country's restrictions on gun licenses, in a move that could make up to 500,000 more civilians eligible to carry firearms, provided they have a certain amount of military or security training.

The new regulations allow veterans of Israel's infantry units to more easily obtain licenses, as well as allowing officers and commanders who have completed their reserve duty to keep their weapons. The regulations also allow emergency responders and former police officers to obtain gun licenses more easily. 
The change could potentially quadruple the number of civilians in Israel who have gun permits. Roughly 145,000 civilians currently have gun permits, according to Israel's ministry of public security. 
    The changes went into effect Tuesday, with Israeli minister of public security Gilad Erdan saying more armed civilians increases the chances of stopping attacks and preventing injuries.  
    "Trained citizens who hold weapons in the public sphere contribute to the feeling of security," Erdan said in a statement announcing the new regulations. "They are an important line of defense against 'lone wolf' actions and are used in a sense as a temporary force multiplier, thereby strengthening public safety." 
    Erdan has been pushing to ease gun restrictions since a wave of Palestinian lone wolf attacks between late 2015 and early 2016, most of which were stabbing or car ramming attacks. In October 2015, at the height of what was sometimes called the "Lone Wolf Intifada," Erdan said armed citizens had helped police stop such attacks. While there have been less attacks of this type in the past two years, Erdan has continued to advocate for a relaxation of gun laws.    
    "The new policy balances between the need to protect the public that could find itself at risk and the need to protect the public safe from the misuse of firearms," Erdan said Tuesday. 
    Critics slammed the new regulations, arguing the government is attempting to solve a problem by expanding that same problem.
    "Instead of dealing with the enormous amount of illegal weapons that are circulating on the streets and endangering lives, [the Ministry of Public Security] simply expands the number of weapons licenses," Israeli opposition Member of Knesset Tamar Zandberg tweeted. "We're talking about weapons of death of which there should be a willingness to reduce these as much as possible."