New York recently approved a law requiring those applying for a concealed handgun permit to provide access to their social media accounts so that their “character and conduct” can be evaluated.

It would be the responsibility of the local sheriff’s office personnel, the judges, or the state officials to read over those accounts and evaluate whether or not any assertions have been made that demonstrate potentially harmful behavioral patterns or motives.

The regulation is intended to detect cases in which potentially dangerous persons “telegraphed” their plan to perpetrate mass shootings online before carrying them out.

“Sometimes, they’re’ telegraphing their intent to cause harm to others,” Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a media briefing.

Applicants for a license to hold a concealed firearm will be required by a law that was passed and brought into effect last week by Governor Kathy Hochul to disclose any social media accounts, current, and past, that they have held within the preceding three years the Associated Press indicated in its report.

The law, which will go into effect on September 1st, has supporters who believe it “strikes” the appropriate balance between adhering to the verdict of the Supreme Court and preventing firearms out of the hands of persons who are apt to use them irresponsibly and with the desire to commit a crime.

In addition, the applicants must undergo approximately 16 hours of safety training to demonstrate their gun competence. Furthermore, they are expected to offer four character references and participate in a personal interview.

Kathy Hochul was ceremonially sworn in as 57th Governor of the State of New York Red Room, Capitol Building, Albany, NY. (Source: NY Senate PhotoCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Prohibitions of the New Law

People convicted of crimes within the past five years for driving while drunk, threatening, or third-degree violence will not be eligible for licenses under the new scheme. People will not be permitted to carry guns in a broad list of “sensitive places,” such as the famous tourist-crowded Times Square in New York City.

This list also includes places where people have assembled for large demonstrations, such as schools, universities, government buildings, religious sites, libraries, public play areas and parks, daycare centers, summer camps, addiction and mental health institutions, foster homes, public transportation, pubs, theaters, sporting venues, exhibitions, voting stations, and sports betting centers. 

In addition, the state of New York will make it illegal for people to bring firearms into any place of commerce or employment unless the owners post signs stating that firearms are permitted. People who carry guns into areas that do not have such symptoms may face criminal charges if caught and prosecuted.

New York City Police Officers In Riot Gear Black Lives Matter Protests. (Source: Anthony QuintanoCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Invasion of Privacy?

On the other hand, several Republican legislators who opposed more stringent restrictions said that the measure undermined the constitutional right to possess arms. Moreover, they were confident it would eventually be ruled unconstitutional since it violates “free speech rights.”

However, the statute violates the rights guaranteed by the second amendment, according to Peter Kehoe, the executive director of the New York Sheriffs Association, and other proponents of the right to keep and bear arms. In addition, the Sheriffs” Association, which was stated would be tasked with reviewing these accounts, claims that it has not been told if they will get adequate funding to accommodate the extra workload. This is even though they would be entrusted with reviewing these social media accounts of gun applicants.

“I think it would be a constitutional invasion of privacy,” Kehoe said.

Constitutional Debates

 The law reflects how the Supreme Court ruling has transitioned culpability for evaluating those who hold guns in public to their respective jurisdictions, said Tanya Schardt, senior counsel, and director of state and federal policy for the gun control advocacy organization Brady. Brady is an organization that advocates for stricter gun control laws.

Her organization stated that to the best of its knowledge, no other states mandate applicants for firearms licenses to provide their social media accounts.

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On the other hand, the new legislative framework is being implemented in the context of a rising discussion around monitoring posts on social media platforms and the heritage of “unwarranted surveillance” of color communities.

“The question should be: Can we do this in an anti-racist way that does not create another set of violence, which is the state violence that happens through surveillance?” said Desmond Upton Patton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in social policy, communications, and medicine. 

Unstoppable Gun Attacks

Recently, according to the ABC News report, five individuals were gunned down and slain in different incidents on New York City’s streets during a particularly violent stretch that lasted for four hours.

The killings took place between 9 p.m. on Tuesday and 1 a.m. on Wednesday, with three of the homicides in the district of Brooklyn and two in the Bronx, the New York Police Department said. There has not been a single arrest made public about any of the homicides as of the moment.

The number of serious crimes committed in New York City over the past four weeks has increased by 33 percent compared to last year, including a 16 percent jump in murders.