Concealed carry applicants must hand over social media accounts: Is NY right?

Mary Altaffer / AP

Fact Box

  • By September 2022, New York will implement a new law to assess conceal carry gun owners by reviewing their social media accounts for “character and conduct” in light of recent shootings across the country. Applicants will be required to list their current and former social media handles from the last three years, participate in safety training, give four character references, and an in-person interview. 
  • On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen case to rule a New York state law that required persons to provide “proper cause” before carrying a gun as unconstitutional. 
  • A June 2022 USA Today/Ipsos poll found that 69% of Americans favor stricter gun laws with less support coming from Republicans (50%) and more from Democrats (88%). 
  • Statista reported in November 2021 that fourteen states and Washington DC require permits for concealed carry, while fifteen allow open carry without a permit.

Amanda (Yes)

While there are some First Amendment concerns regarding New York's new regulations on concealed carry permits, even the ACLU acknowledges that the need for safe public spaces outweighs the demand for carrying handguns anywhere and everywhere. In other words, a gun owner's request for personal safety cannot supersede the greater community's right to open association--and the examination of an applicant's social media posts can help protect the latter by potentially heading off violence before it even occurs.

And unfortunately, we've seen several recent examples of radicalization happening online before mass shooters started their killing sprees, including just this past Fourth of July in Highland Park. In some cases, shooters could acquire firearms mere days or hours before they opened fire, illustrating an all too real need for some form of regulatory control.

Of course, spouting off on Twitter or Instagram isn't a guarantee of violence in real life; however, it's also not unheard of for shooters to announce their intentions or raise common red flags before their talk turns into action. For example, many, many, many shooters have had a long history of harassing and expressing vitriol toward women in online spaces. Again, while that doesn't mean they will automatically murder someone, that sort of consistent occurrence should certainly trigger heightened scrutiny.

Even without the new regulations, New York already has some of the strongest gun control laws in the United States, with a robust number of possible petitioners for an extreme protection order under their 'red flag' laws. Checking social media for a concealed carry application is just a natural extension of the rules already in place.

Elisa (No)

Society has become increasingly Orwellian, and with NY's new concealed carry policy, even more free speech concerns are being raised. Critics have slammed this proposal to monitor concealed weapons carriers' 'temperament' and 'social media,' emphasizing the uncanny increases in a surveillance society--some explain it even violates the Constitution itself.

It is easy to see how authorities could take advantage of this law, which is part of a larger battle on gun rights, free speech, and freedom of privacy. Besides being unconstitutional, it is simply 'unfundable and unworkable.'

Some may not truly understand the ramifications of this bill, which will also require applicants to 'provide four character references, take 16 hours of firearms safety training plus two hours of practice at a range, undergo periodic background checks, and turn over contact information for their spouse, domestic partner or any other adults living in their household.'

Further, this law is simply not legally enforceable and eliminates subjectivity from licensing companies and authorities. Too many people can create multiple or fake accounts on social media. For example, criminals can submit fake accounts to show themselves as good citizens, ultimately invalidating the reason for the policy altogether. Further, it's arbitrary and cannot be enforced equally across the population, leading to rampant discrimination by various entities.

The unconstitutionality of this new law should be enough to raise peoples' eyebrows and have them deeply consider whether 'giving up' their social media history to authorities is worth it. George Orwell, the author of 1984, warned against gun control measures, and if we don't stand against this policy, we will find out what he meant when he said, 'The future of the human race is a boot stomping on it forever.'

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