A proposed bill in the New York State Senate could mean that anyone wanting to buy a pistol or renew their permit will be subject to a review of their internet history and social media accounts going back up to three years.
The bill, referred to as S9191, was drafted by State Senator Kevin Parker from New York’s 21st Congressional District with the intention of keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially violent people, ABC-affiliate WHAM reports.
S9191 “requires a person applying for a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver or a renewal of such license to consent to having his or her social media accounts and search engine history reviewed and investigated for certain posts and/or searches over a period of 1-3 years prior to the approval of such application or renewal,” the draft bill states.
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.
“There should be more restrictions on how guns are purchased,” Paul McQuillen, director of the Buffalo chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGC), told ABC-affiliate WFTS. “We should have more background checks.”
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.
However, gun rights lawyer James Tresmond told WFTS that it would not be easy to pass the bill because it violates multiple constitutional rights, including the first, second, fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendments.
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.”
The bill is currently in committee and will have to clear several steps before it can become law, including being passed by the State Senate and Assembly.