A new proposal would require New Yorkers who want handgun licenses to undergo search engine and social media checks, including handing over log-in information and passwords to police.
State Sen. Kevin Parker, a Democrat representing Brooklyn, introduced the bill this month, according to the state legislature’s website. If signed into law, the legislation would impact those applying for or renewing their licenses to have a pistol or revolver.
Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram are the social media platforms that would be scrutinized under the bill. Investigators would review applicants’ Google, Yahoo and Bing search results as well.
Text of the legislation says “the New York state police shall, after obtaining the licensee’s consent … and obtaining any log-in name, password or other means for accessing a personal account … review a licensee’s social media accounts for the previous three years and search engine history for the previous year.”
The stated purpose of the law is figure out whether anything on the applicants’ social media or search engine results present “good cause for the revocation of a license.”
But what does “good cause” include?
Under the bill, police are instructed to watch for posts that include profane slurs or biased language related to race, color, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation. Other red flags would include threats to other people and acts of terrorism that turn up in the search, the legislation said.
Critics said the bill opens the door for discrimination.
“Are we going to deny permits because a person goes to church or goes to a mosque?” asked Sheldon Boyce, an attorney with Brenna Boyce PLLC, WROC reported.
He questioned the constitutionality of the proposal as well.
“In the case of Heller vs District of Columbia in 2008, the US Supreme Court held that the possession of a handgun in the home is a fundamental constitutional right so anything that infringes upon that right is subject to challenge,” Boyce said, WROC reported.
Boyce added that “the judge who grants or denies a permit has fairly broad digression under New York State law,” according to the TV station.
Gun control advocates argued that more gun control is needed — particularly looking into the backgrounds of those hoping to purchase weapons.
“There should be more restrictions on how guns are purchased. We should have more background checks,” said Paul McQuillen, director of the Buffalo chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, which hasn’t yet backed the bill, WKBW reports. “We’ve obviously seen some of the mass shooters have a social media history that should have sent red flags.”
The bill is in the state Senate’s rules committee, according to the legislature’s website.
New Yorkers have to recertify their pistol licenses every five years, according to state police. Applicants for the license are already required to submit their criminal history, mental health history and offer character references. They have to be over 21 and can’t have felony or serious offense convictions.
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