As missed warning signs pile up in investigations of mass killings, New York state is rolling out a novel strategy to screen applicants for gun permits.
One of the laws signed last week by Governor Kathy Hochul would require an applicant’s social media profiles to be screened. This review would be to assess their “character and conduct,” Marina Villeneuve and Maysoon Khan of the Associated Press have reported. The new requirement is expected to take effect this September.
The law was signed by Governor Hochul because she noted shooters sometimes “telegraph their intent to hurt others.” Applicants will have to provide local officials with a list of current and former social media accounts from the previous three years. Then, the local officials — such as sheriff’s staff, judges or country clerks — will have to be the ones to scroll through those profiles and check for any alarming sentiments in relation to possibly owning a gun.
Knowing this, some local officials who will be tasked with reviewing the social media content have a few questions and concerns. It is still unclear about where the additional resources to complete this new requirement will come from, such as additional funding and staffing. It is also being debated whether the law is constitutional due to free speech concerns.
Peter Kehoe, the executive director of the New York Sheriffs’ Association has asserted that the law infringes on Second Amendment rights. Furthermore, he says just because applicants will have to hand over their social media accounts, that doesn’t mean local officials will necessarily look at them.
“I don’t think we would do that,” Kehoe said. “I think it would be a constitutional invasion of privacy.”
Also included in the new law also is a recuirement for applicants to prove they’re proficient at shooting after undergoing hours of safety training, provide four character references, and sit for in-person interviews.