A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill which would implement a new method of conducting background checks for firearm purchases.
The new process, State Senator Kevin Parker proposed, would modernize the existing background check by allowing law enforcement officials to check a person’s social media accounts and search history on engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
The proposal would subsequently deny or “disqualify those who have published violent or hateful posts,” the Associated Press reports.
“It’s a new time. It’s a new technology,” Parker said, per the report. “It’s time that we in fact start having that conversation about how we monitor social media in a way that we can create safety for our communities.”
Free-speech watchdogs and even some gun-control advocates have raised concerns about the bill, which would require handgun applicants to turn over login information to allow investigators to look at three years’ worth of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram postings. Google, Yahoo and Bing searches over the previous year also would be checked.
Licenses could be denied if investigators uncover threats of violence or terrorism or the use of racial or ethnic slurs. The process would be the same for five-year re-certifications.
The bill will be among many related to guns waiting for lawmakers when they return to New York’s Capitol in January. While Democrats now control both houses, only a fraction of those measures are expected to make it to floor votes in the coming months.
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The initiative already has some opposition, from people on both sides of the Second Amendment argument.
According to the report, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said a person’s use of the First Amendment, however trifling or offensive, could not be used to deny them their Second Amendment right.
“A person could be prejudiced,” Siegel said, per the Associated Press. “That doesn’t mean he’s not entitled to his Second Amendment right.”
Other critics of the bill argued it would further slow down the approval process, backlogging those already in the system.
Some others yet said it would be another expenditure, in time and resources, for limited law enforcement budgets and personnel:
At the American Tactical Systems gun range, a short drive from New York’s Capitol, gun owners called the proposal unnecessary and intrusive.
“I don’t think the government should have access to anybody’s history, especially for pistol permits,” Steve Wohlleber, who works at the range. “And the state police have enough to worry about besides checking everyone’s social media.”
Even likely allies raised concerns.
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence staff attorney David Pucino said while he shared the legislator’s goals, he thought there were better alternatives, such as another bill that would create a court order of protection to bar people considered dangerous from possessing or buying guns.
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
On a practical level, the measure would mean more work for police in New York who already check the criminal and mental health histories of handgun license applicants.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, whose department processes a few hundred applications every year, said “it’s definitely going to bog things down a bit” in a licensing process that already can take from 120 days to a year to complete.