If you intend to become a gun owner in New York, you may want to watch what you say on social media as well as what you search for on Google. If a pair of Brooklyn politicians get their way, your posts and searches may be used t deny your application for a gun license.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and state Senator Kevin Parker pointed to Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers as an example of someone who could have been prevented from owning a gun had authorities taken a look at his social media posts. In those posts, he called immigrants “invaders” and went after Jewish organizations he claimed were funding the migrant caravans heading towards our southern border.
“The shooter in Pennsylvania had no criminal flags. You would have thought this person was a model citizen until you examined his social media profile,” Adams said. “He was a broken citizen. He was a time bomb waiting to explode, and that is why it’s important to do this type of review.”
One part of their pitch is that law enforcement often turns to social media when investigating suspects and prosecutors often check search histories to help them build their cases.
There are so many problems with this proposal, it’ll be hard to be concise. Here are some of the main points against it:
- Wasted manpower. It’s hard enough to do the background checks currently in play. Adding a review of three years of social media posts is ludicrous unless it can be automated, in which case we’re putting the fate of our 2nd Amendment rights in the hands of a robot.
- Who judges? Should someone be denied a gun license if they call illegal immigrants “invaders” as these politicians implied? Is being opposed to illegal immigration grounds to deny a license? What if someone says Jews are termites? Should a person who says that be allowed to own a firearm? What are the criteria for denial? Who judges posts against these criteria? If the answer is “law enforcement” which is already spread too thin, then they’re barking up the wrong tree.
- Search history is private. Using a person’s search history to help build a case after a crime has been committed is in a privacy gray area, but as long as a warrant is properly issued, it should be fair game. Using a search history to see if a law-abiding citizen might commit a gun crime in the future isn’t a gray area. It’s clearly a violation of our right to privacy.
- Rage versus worldview. Here’s a scenario. A Chinese immigrant gets mugged by a white man. He goes on Twitter and says, “I just got mugged by some white dude in an alley. Crime is rampant. This needs to be stopped. I’m not going to wait around and be a victim anymore.” Shortly after posting this, the man applies for a gun license. He’s doing so to protect himself following a mugging, but his rage made him go to Twitter, invoke race, and declare he’s fed up with it. Should this person be given a gun license? His rage may be temporarily threatening but his worldview revolves around self-protection.
There are dozens of reasons why this is a very bad idea, but the thought police will never take privacy or logic into account. They want to limit what we say by punishing us for saying it. This is the intersection of the 1st and 2nd Amendment under attack.