Rights, Subject To Social Media Approval

New York City hates guns. This is a politically unremarkable statement, despite the fact that the Supreme Court in Heller and McDonald held that the Second Amendment protected the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. In the past, it was nearly impossible to obtain a carry permit from the NYPD. What will the future bring?

WCBS NewsRadio New York reports:

Two New York lawmakers are working to draft a bill that would propose a social media check before a gun purchase. 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and state Sen. Kevin Palmer’s [sic] proposal would allow authorities to review three years of social media history and one year of internet search history of any person seeking to purchase a firearm.

True, “free speech and gun rights complaints are likely to come up” – no kidding! – but Adams says it’s a way to identify persons who “not suitable to hold and possess a firearm.”

Given that few, outside of ex-cops for whom gun possession in perpetuity is a perk of the job, in New York City have a shot at a permit, there is no historic expectation to combat, making this proposition less disturbing than it would be in most other places. Indeed, Sen. Parker was quite proud of being part of this scheme.

In fairness, there aren’t likely to be too many New Yorkers who will find the notion of NYPD scouring a person’s social media account as part of a background check a problem. After all, New York City hates guns. Killers, so the media tells us after the fact, often express their hatred and anger on social media in advance of doing horrific things. Seems entirely natural to have the cops search social media for their ranting and raving, predicting that they might be that one gun owner who will go to a school, a synagogue, a church, a casino, and shoot.

Who doesn’t want to prevent another mass murder?

And since New Yorkers hate guns, any excess zeal on the part of NYPD, denying a permit upon less than a clear demonstration that the applicant is one trigger pull away from a mass murderer, won’t make many New Yorkers sad. Did I mention New Yorkers don’t care much for guns?

The two are hoping to identify any hate speech on social media profiles, which are often revealed only after someone is arrested in a mass shooting.

Hate speech? There’s that phrase again, the one that means everything and nothing, that blows in the wind, shifts from person to person. Certainly the NYPD will know what it means. But for every person who utters “hate speech” on social media, what are the odds he will be a mass shooter? One in a million? One in one hundred million? That’s a lot of people who could putatively be denied a fundamental constitutional right based on some extreme speculation by NYPD. But then, who doesn’t trust the cops to do the right thing? Plus, New Yorkers hate guns.

A few decades ago, New Yorkers and most Americans feared and hated crack, and a bunch of laws took hold that were so fundamentally dubious, some might argue blatantly wrong, because we were told they would only apply to the hated and feared crack dealers. Civil forfeiture. Ever-increasing punishments, with mandatory minimums, plus enhancements, plus mandatory sentencing guidelines. But these were for “drug kingpins,” like Tony Montana, and nobody blinked an eye because they hated Tony Montana, even if he was only a character in a movie.

But once we accepted these ideas in general, the creep set in, and over time these abominations came knocking on our doors. And people couldn’t understand how these things happened. After all, they were just for drug kingpins, to stop the crack epidemic, and now they applied to everyone. To us!

Leaving it up to the wisdom of NYPD to search social media for “hate speech” should strike fear in every heart. Will someone who is critical of police be deemed hateful to a cop’s eye? Even so, what of the right to express one’s views, even if they don’t meet some higher order of political correctness to a non-cop? Would this be a more palatable approach if a committee of woke scolds was formed to approve of an applicant’s social media speech?

But since it’s only about gun permits, who cares? Remember, New Yorkers hate guns, so denial of permits for any reason, or no reason, isn’t going to get too many New Yorkers bent out of shape. But like the excesses of the 80s, which we welcomed because it was only a weapon to be used against the hated and feared crack dealers, the rhetorical boundaries kept moving.

We might welcome in an entirely unprincipled, outcome-oriented way that we tend to do when we’re being sold extremely bad ideas, anything that makes it harder to get a gun permit because, well, New Yorkers hate guns. But once we’ve established, accepted, the premise that a constitutional right can be contingent on the police approving our social media expressions, our free speech, the creep will begin.

The argument will be made that this isn’t an impingement on free speech, as we can still say whatever we want. We just can’t say it and then get a gun permit despite our speech reflecting something that disturbs a cop. We just can’t say it and then get to vote, or to deny the police entry to our homes because mass shooters have to keep their guns and ammo somewhere.

That wag, Wally Olson, makes a Third Amendment joke when noting how unconstitutional this idea is.

The only way to make this proposal better – by which I mean worse – would be to arrange for New York to quarter troops on the homes of applicants with especially bad social media postings. That way the sponsors could achieve a straight flush of Bill of Rights violations.

This would be ridiculous, of course, as few New Yorkers can fit troops in their studio apartment. But if they could, there’s a good chance New Yorkers would be all for the idea. Because New Yorkers hate guns, and have proven in the past that they’re all too happy to hand over their constitutional rights when they’re filled with hate and fear.

20 thoughts on “Rights, Subject To Social Media Approval

  1. J. S. Greenfield

    Checking social media is one thing — to the degree that we’re talking about public postings. Let’s not kid ourselves, for practical purposes, it’s blank check for governmental authorities to subjectively deny permits. But in the downstate area (not just NYC), they already have such a blank check, anyway.

    It’s another thing entirely, however, to check search history, which is fundamentally private. (Likewise if they would purport to demand to review non-public social media posts.) Surprised you skip discussing that, altogether. So now, if one wishes to exercise a constitutional right, he must give up another constitutional right?

    Yes, I’m sure they have some (cockamamie) legal argument that our search histories are actually business records for Google, in which we have no legal privacy interest…but that’s just ok? Not even worthy of any comment?

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re right, but in my defense, I tend to limit my discussion to one narrow slice of an issue, and often deliberately leave another important slice out for the sake of not trying to jam more into a post than can be adequately addressed. But yes, search history is even more intrusive than social media, though I expect a very different reaction from people who say, “well, if he was searching for how to make a bomb, wouldn’t we want to know that?!?”

  2. DaveL

    No, no, this is a great idea, in fact we should roll it out nationwide. Hate speech is just un-American, and we should have a bipartisan standing House Committee to watch for such activities. They would decide, based on each person’s politics, what rights they have and what rights they have not got.

    1. Onlymom

      Nice ideal. Just think the first individual charged under it could be our glorious leader.

      His twitter feed is damming

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Apparently the authors of this bill heard about China’s “social credit” system and said “That’s brilliant, we need to use it” instead of “that’s horrible totalitarian repression, run far away”. Then again, Senator Dodd used actual Nazi law as the basis for the 1968 Gun Control Act, and this law is congruent with the intent of New York’s own Sullivan Act, which was sold as keeping guns away from immigrants.
    Since “guns are icky” this is seen as a great opportunity for social controllers to get the camel’s nose into the tent and establish precedent for using badthink as a basis to deny rights.

  4. B. McLeod

    So, this would affect people who purchase their guns legally in New York. Basically, the ex cops. Meanwhile, all the people who have been purchasing their guns in neighboring states and illegally transporting them into New York will keep doing what they are doing.

      1. B. McLeod

        Well, such laws also affect people who don’t come to the jurisdiction because they know they can’t get a permit. When last I checked, a person had to prove they could tolerate living in New York State for five years (by actually doing that) before they could even seek a permit to be armed.

        1. SHG Post author

          Given the 2d Cir.’s being a very NY court, and the Supreme Court’s reluctance to defend it’s Heller decision, there has understandably been little impetus to challenge NYC’s gun restriction, most of which would fall if SCOTUS meant what it said. So NY continues to get away with a lot of shenanigans that Heller suggests shouldn’t be permitted.

  5. D-Poll

    As a member of The 99.36% (of New York’s land area), I sure am glad to be just an irrelevant appendage to NYC policy, let me tell you!

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