There's a story in the submission queue about a gun control law passed in New York yesterday. I doubt it makes it to the front page, but there are elements of this story that would fit Slashdot's Your Rights Online section.
For a bit of background, the Supreme Court recently overturned a prior law that required people seeking a concealed carry permit to justify the need for doing so. The new law is a response to the Supreme Court decision.
New York state passed a law on Friday banning guns from many public places, including Times Square, and requiring gun-license applicants to prove their shooting proficiency and submit their social media accounts for review by government officials.
I've skimmed the new law and I didn't see details about how the social media checks would be implemented. However, I think we can look to a previous gun control bill in New York to see how this might be implemented.
If the bill passes, investigators would be able to look for posts or searches that contain threats to the health or safety of others; intentions to carry out an act of terrorism; or commonly known profane slurs or biased language describing the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person.
In order for investigators to access personal accounts, applicants would have to give over their login details to social media platforms such as Facebook Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.
The newly enacted law builds on one of New York's requirements that people purchasing guns be of good moral character. This seems pretty vague to me. This language is used to justify the social media checks. It's not clear with the new law how far back social media checks would go, but I assume that users would be required to turn over passwords for accounts that aren't publicly searchable. Back to the 2018 bill, here's the justification for the social media searches:
While the NYAGC hasn't thrown its support behind the bill yet, McQuillen thinks the proposals could be beneficial.
"We've obviously seen some of the mass shooters have a social media history that should have sent red flags," he said.
Gun ownership is protected by the second amendment. Logically, this includes the ability to purchase guns. The fact that a person chooses to exercise their second amendment rights is not probable cause or justification to violate their fourth amendment rights. It's also quite vague about what would disqualify a person on the basis of their moral character, leaving the definite possibility that speech and expression that is protected by the first amendment could be the basis for denying a person their second amendment rights. These rights have all been incorporated against the states under the fourteenth amendment.
I support gun control, but this goes way too far. In many respects, gun ownership should be regulated like driving. Freedom of movement is a right protected by the Constitution under the privileges and immunities clause. This doesn't specifically mention cars, but they provide a freedom of movement that isn't available through public transportation or other modes of travel. I believe this is analogous to the second amendment, which doesn't specifically mention guns, but courts recognize that guns are a major component of the right to keep and bear arms.
Just as people applying for a driver's license must demonstrate that they can safely operate a motor vehicle, I consider it reasonable to require gun purchasers show they can safely use a gun. Just like there's a vision test to get a driver's license, I think it's reasonable to require a person to demonstrate sufficient physical and mental health to safely operate a gun. Just as there's a driving test, I think it's reasonable to require applicants to demonstrate good marksmanship.
Even law enforcement questioned the effectiveness of the 2018 bill:
Meanwhile, Chief of Gates Police Department in New York State James VanBrederode questioned the effectiveness of trawling through social media and search history, arguing that looking at an applicant's history of mental health and domestic violence would likely be a more helpful predictor of future behavior.
"We chase down these social media threats," he told WHAM. "And very few are ever legitimate, because it's easy to sit behind a keyboard and say something bad. I would even agree that this has become a violation of your privacy rights."
One of the big problems with background checks is that many disqualifying issues never get reported to the federal database. The Supreme Court ruled on Printz v. United States (1997) that federal law could not compel states to submit such information. A lot of data never gets reported, allowing people who should be disqualified from purchasing a firearm to do so anyway. This ruling ought to be revisited.
Another issue is the use of stolen guns in crimes. Many stolen guns don't get reported to authorities until after they're used in a crime. Penalties can and should be increased for failing to properly secure a gun and failure to promptly report a stolen gun.
There are plenty of ways to improve gun control without egregiously violating people's freedom. It also raises the question of whether a person will be treated as suspicious if they don't disclose their social media history. The law is also vague about what constitutes social media. For example, SN has friends and foes, and interactions here are social in nature. Would I have to turn over my SN username and password to get a permit to buy a gun in New York?
Regardless of whether or not you want strict gun control, I'd like to think that we can all agree that this is a massive abuse of power and invasion of privacy.
(Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 02 2022, @01:21PM
Background checks, social media checks? No thanks. I'll use the gun show loophole instead.