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New York gun seekers must submit social accounts for review: NPR

New York gun seekers must submit social accounts for review: NPR

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to strengthen gun laws June 6, 2022 in New York.

Mary Altaffer / AP


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Mary Altaffer / AP

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a ceremony to sign a package of bills to strengthen gun laws June 6, 2022 in New York.

Mary Altaffer / AP

ALBANY, NY – As lost warning signs pile up in the massacre investigation, New York State is rolling out a new strategy to investigate gun license applicants. People who want to carry concealed handguns will be required to hand over their social media accounts for a review of their “character and behavior.”

It is an approach that is applauded by many Democrats and national arms control groups, but some experts have raised questions about how the law will be enforced and address concerns about freedom of expression.

Some of the local officials who will be tasked with reviewing the content on social media also ask if they want the resources and, in some cases, if the law is even constitutional.

Sheriffs have not received extra money or staff to handle a new application process, said Peter Kehoe, executive director of the New York Sheriffs’ Association. The law, he argued, violates the rights of the Second Amendment, and although applicants must list their social media accounts, he does not think local officials will necessarily look at them.

“I do not think we would do that,” Kehoe said. “I think it would be a constitutional invasion of privacy.”

The new requirement, which takes effect in September, was included in a law passed last week that sought to preserve some limits on firearms after the Supreme Court ruled that most people have the right to carry a weapon for personal protection. It was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, who noticed that shooters sometimes telegraphed the intent to harm others.

Increasingly, young men have gone online to hint at what is to come before committing a mass murder, including the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Officials will search social accounts for statements suggesting dangerous behavior

By law, applicants must provide local officials with a list of current and past social media accounts from the previous three years. It will be up to local sheriff’s staff, judges or country clerks to browse these profiles while checking to see if applicants have made statements suggesting dangerous behavior.

The law will also require applicants to undergo hours of safety training, prove that they are good at shooting, provide four grade references and participate in personal interviews.

The law reflects how the Supreme Court decision has shifted responsibility to states to control those who carry firearms publicly, said Tanya Schardt, senior adviser and director of state and federal policy for the arms control organization Brady.

Her group said it was not aware of any other states requiring gun license applicants to submit profiles on social media.

However, the new approach comes amid a growing debate about police work on social media posts and a legacy of unjustified surveillance of black and brown 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 University of Pennsylvania professor of social policy, communications and medicine Desmond Upton Patton, who also founded SAFElab, a research initiative that studies violence involving colored youth.

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Meanwhile, gun rights activists are breaking the law.

“You also have to tell them your social media accounts because New York wants to investigate you thoroughly to find out if you are one of the dangerous law-abiding citizens who are taking the country by storm and causing crime to skyrocket,” Jared said. Yanis, host of the YouTube channel Guns & Gadgets, in a much watched video about the new law. “What have we come to?”

Hochul, who has also given state police the task of directing extremism online, did not immediately respond to a list of questions about the requirement for social media, including how the state will deal with freedom of expression and privacy issues.

Some experts are wondering how the measure will be enforced

“Often the point is: How do we go about enforcing this?” Metro State University law professor James Densley, co-founder of the research initiative The Violence Project, said. “I think it’s starting to open up a bit of a box of worms, because no one really knows how best to do it.”

It can be difficult, he said, to decode social media posts by younger people, who could simply express themselves by posting a music video.

“Where this will be difficult is to what extent this is expression and to what extent is this proof of error?” in Densley.

Spokesmen for the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, 4Chan and Parler did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

New York should instead consider giving the job to a trained group tasked with figuring out how best to reach people online who are showing signs of radicalization or trauma and may need help, Patton said.

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“There are a lot of nuances and contextual issues. We talk differently; how we communicate, which can be misunderstood,” Patton said. “I am concerned that we do not have the right people or the right tools in place to do this in a way that is helpful in actually preventing violence.”

Adam Scott Wandt, professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he supports gun control, but is concerned that New York law could set a precedent for mandatory disclosure of social media activity for people seeking other types licenses from the state.

New York’s law is hasty and vague, said Wandt, who teaches law enforcement personnel how to search people through social media.

“I think what we could have done as a state here in New York is that we may have confirmed their worst fears – that a slippery slope will be created that will slowly reduce their rights to bear arms and let a bureaucracy decide, based on on vague criteria, who can have a gun and who can not, “said Wandt. – That was exactly what the Supreme Court tried to avoid.

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