New York Lawmaker Introduces Social Media Check Law for Purchasing Guns
In recent years, it has become a common trend for mass shooters to leave red flags on social media before they commit their crimes. These red flags present an opportunity to stop the shooter before they are able to carry out their plans. In far too many cases, though, law enforcement has been dropping the ball, either missing these red flags or ignoring them entirely.
Rather than review how law enforcement responds to potential threats, one New York lawmaker – state Sen. Kevin Parker – has decided to use this situation as an opportunity to introduce dangerous new gun control legislation.
The new bill that Sen. Parker is introducing would require law enforcement to search through and scrutinize a person’s online searches and social media posts before they would be allowed to purchase a handgun in the state of New York. If the person is found to have published “hateful” posts on social media or to have made concerning online searches, the sale would be denied.
Using the red flags that mass shooter tend to leave behind as a way to stop them is a worthwhile pursuit and possibly one of the most promising avenues that law enforcement has available. However, this new gun control bill goes about the task in an entirely wrong, dangerous way.
The first and most glaring issue with the bill is the fact that “hateful” speech is a very subjective term. We’ve already been given countless examples of social media companies deciding for themselves what constitutes hate speech and what does not, and there have been many instances of people being banned from Twitter or Facebook for saying something that is much more of a political opinion than it is “hate speech”. Being banned from social media is bad enough and a risk to our First Amendment rights. Under Sen. Parker’s bill, though, social media censorship becomes a risk to our Second Amendment rights as well.
A person who posts that they are about to go shoot up a school should certainly be placed under arrest and by no means allowed to purchase a firearm. But what about a person who expresses dislike for a certain group or person? In most cases, this would constitute hate speech. What wouldn’t be justified, though, is stripping them of the right to purchase a firearm for the rest of their lives because of an ill-advised comment.
Giving any one group the power to determine what speech is allowed and what speech is not is dangerous enough. Giving law enforcement the power to take away a person’s Second Amendment rights based on their speech, though, is terrifying.
Still, Sen. Parker insists that the bill is a good idea, saying, “We certainly want to make sure we’re putting weapons in the hands of the right people and keeping them out of the hands of the wrong people.” Sen. Parker was inspired to create the bill after learning that Pittsburgh synagogue shooter posted on social media that Jews were “children of Satan”.
Thankfully, Sen. Parker’s bill has already drawn a lot of criticism and push back. Tom King – the president of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association said that the bill was the start of a “slippery slope of taking away your First Amendment” rights. Steve Wohlleber – who works at the American Tactical Systems gun range – said, “I don’t think the government should have access to anybody’s history, especially for pistol permits. And the state police have enough to worry about besides checking everyone’s social media.”
It’s safe to assume that Sen. Parker is only trying to do what is best to stop future shooters. However, there are ways for law enforcement to use the red flags that these shooters leave on social media as a means to identify and stop them without having to take away the rights of everyone who posts something on social media that the powers that be deem to be hateful.
In a perfect world, Sen. Parker’s bill would only be used to go after people who are on the verge of committing a crime. In the imperfect world we live in, though, the bill creates an incredibly slippery slope that may lead to a lot of innocent individuals in the state of New York losing their right to bear arms.