Sherwin Pomerantz

Freedom is Not License: It’s Not About the 2nd Amendment

When I was growing up one of the lessons that were drummed into our heads in elementary school was that freedom is not license.

The example that was often used was that for sure America guarantees freedom of speech.  People living there can voice their opinions and not fear that they will be arrested, incarcerated or even killed for those opinions. But freedom of speech does not give a person license to cause damage. Therefore, a person cannot go into a packed theatre and yell “FIRE!” And the reasons are obvious.

The parallel in the situation America now finds itself with weapons similar to the AR-15 type rifle used for many of the more recent mass shootings, is of people taking the second amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms and seeing that as license to kill rather than for the purposes of self protection against marauders and intruders.

But what happens when freedom is misused and become license?

For example, the right to drive a car is a freedom that many of us enjoy wherever we live and the government, exercising its responsibilities to protect the populace, says a person must be qualified to drive before he or she is given a driver’s license.  But once the person has that license and misuses it, the individual runs the risk of losing the right to drive when doing so would endanger the life of others.  And both aspects of this process are respected and generate no demonstrations.  People understand the need for government to license drivers and to take that license away if misused.

The same situation applies to doctors for example, who need a license to practice but who can lose that license as a result of malpractice.  And the list goes on to cover lawyers, beauticians, and others.

But what happens when a society as a whole misuses a constitutionally guaranteed right as in the case of privately held weapons? Should the government reaction be to take away those weapons from all of society?  Is that even practical?  Clearly it is not but, at the very least, certain minimums should be established and it would seem that the absence of those minimums is what is rightfully causing the current angst.

So….what should and must be done:

  • No one should be allowed to purchase a weapon anywhere in the world without a government issued license that certifies that he/she has taken sufficient lessons to use that weapon responsibly.
  • No one should be issued a gun license who has a personal history that would question his or her being able to qualify for a license to own a deadly weapon.
  • Individuals should not be allowed to purchase what are commonly classified as “assault rifles”. No one needs an assault rifle for personal protection.

What this would do is to enshrine the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the second amendment to the U.S. constitution while applying the same laws to someone who wants to buy a lethal weapon as someone who wants to drive a car (i.e. a lethal weapon that is mobile).

One would think that a country as powerful as the U.S. where the rule of law is generally well respected could figure all of this out and come together in a bipartisan manner and make this work. But, then again, perhaps obvious logic no longer holds sway in American politics.  It would be a sad state of affairs if that were true.  It seems to this writer that all it takes is the will to make all of this happen.  Let’s hope the political leadership internalizes this so that the 17 young people who died last week in Florida will be the last ones to be so casually slaughtered.


About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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