Social Media could play a pivotal role in obtaining a handgun license.
New York State Sen. Kevin Parker is raising the question with a bill that would require police to scrutinize the social media activity and online searches of handgun license applicants, and disqualify those who have published violent or hateful posts.
The New York lawmaker says he hopes his proposal sparks discussion about how to balance public safety and online privacy. Sen. Parker noted that mass killers often provide warning signs through their social media posts, as in the case of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect, who ranted online that Jews were “children of Satan.”
However free-speech and 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.
If this bill is passed, 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.
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.
Parker countered that many employers perform social media checks on job applicants. Still, the Brooklyn Democrat has already succeeded at one of his goals of creating “fodder for discussion,” including pushback.
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