Gun Applicants in New York Now Required to Turn Over Social Media Accounts for “Character” Review

New Yorkers applying for gun permits will be required to turn over their social media accounts for a review of “character and conduct” under a new law, The Associated Press reports.

The new requirement, which will take effect in September, was part of a sweeping gun bill passed by the state legislature after the Supreme Court struck down the state’s century-old ban on carrying guns in public without cause.

Under the law, applicants will have to list their current and past social media accounts from the previous three years.

Local sheriffs, judges or county clerks will be tasked with reviewing the profiles for evidence of dangerous behavior or statements.

The law will also require applicants to undergo hours of training, pass a proficiency test, provide four character references and face in-person interviews.

Is it constitutional?

The head of the New York Sheriff’s Association, a police union, condemned the new law.

Sheriffs have not received any additional funding or staff to handle the new process, he told the AP.

Even if people are required to turn over their social media data, he predicted that local officials may not review it anyway.

“I don’t think we would do that,” Peter Kehoe said. “I think it would be a constitutional invasion of privacy.”

He also argued that the law also violates the Second Amendment.

Worries of overpolicing:

Some experts raised concerns that the law would be disproportionately used to surveil the social media of Black people.

“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?” Desmond Upton Patton, the co-founder of SAFElab, which studies gun violence, told the AP.

Patton suggested the state should instead task a trained group to figure out how to reach out to people showing signs of radicalization online.

“There's a lot of nuance and contextual issues. We speak differently; how we communicate, that could be misunderstood,” Patton said. “I’m concerned we don’t have the right people or the right tools in place to do this in a way that’s useful in actually preventing violence.”


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