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NY State bill would review social media, internet history as part of background checks

The New York State legislature is considering a bill to include social media and internet search history in background checks for firearm purchases. (WHAM photo)


People applying for a pistol permit or renewing a license could have their social media accounts and internet history reviewed. It's part of a newly proposed bill in the New York State Senate.

State Senator Kevin Parker of the 21st District introduced Senate Bill 9191 in attempts to keep firearms out the hands of people who may be violent.

The measure requires, "social media and search engine reviews prior to the approval of an application or renewal of a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver; 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; defines terms."

This, as lawmakers and authorities around the country look for ways to prevent mass shootings.

The bill asks those applying for a gun license or renewing one to give up their log-ins and passwords to social media accounts for open searches going back three years; internet search histories would go back one year.

“I think it would help," said Sarah Stade. "You never know what people on the internet are searching. You can have a person that’s a normal everyday person to someone else, and you go into their search history or their home and it’s totally different.”

Some people see the proposal as an infringement on their First Amendment rights.

“I’ve always thought anything that’s pass code-worthy is yours; it’s private,” said Glenn Moses. “To have any rights to get your passwords and go through your accounts and maintain your accounts, that’s just horrible.”

“I do believe there needs to be more staunch standards when it comes to acquiring firearms or what it takes to possess one," Jonathan Bernard said. "However, going through your search history and searching your social media and all that, I don’t know how effective that would be — unless you’re going to go into forensics and psychological things. For what it’s worth, I could be Daffy Duck on social media and you wouldn’t know the difference.”

The law would give state and local police the green light to investigate for "commonly known profane slurs used or biased language used to describe race, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation; threatening health or safety of another person, or an act of terrorism."

"Most times, when you have these shooting incidents, there are breadcrumbs in social media plainly visible things. What can be done about that?" said State Assemblywoman-elect Jamie Romeo. “While I respect his proposal, there’s a lot of enforcement problems with that, I think."

Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode believes a history of mental health and domestic violence is a better predictor of future behaviors.

“We chase down these social media threats," he said. "And very few are ever legitimate because it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and say something bad or do like that. I would even agree that this has become a violation of your privacy rights."

Romeo sees the proposal as a means to continue the conversation about the governor's “Red Flag” gun protection bill, a provision for school leaders and parents to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who might present a danger to others.

"What I do think, it leads us down the path to is talking about the red flag provisions that have been already proposed and have been on the table in NYS," she said.

She hopes the Bump Stock ban is passed with the new Democrat-led State Legislature.

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