Not content with enacting some of the most stringent anti-gun laws in the country and abusing its regulatory power by browbeating insurance carriers to not do business with the NRA, New York has launched a new broadside against the Second Amendment. In a move that should set off alarm bells with privacy advocates everywhere and with anyone who uses or has used social media, legislation has been introduced in the state legislature that would force residents seeking to either purchase a rifle or a shotgun from a lawful dealer, or seeking to obtain or renew a pistol permit, to surrender to law enforcement access to their social media history along with their use of internet search engines for the previous three years.
This monstrosity of a bill undermines not only an individual’s Second Amendment rights, but those guaranteed by the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments as well. State Sen. Kevin Parker, a Democrat from Brooklyn, is the proud sponsor of the legislation. And, knowing that a majority of his colleagues in the legislature have in the past demonstrated as little regard for constitutional rights as Parker when it comes to the Second Amendment, his bill could very well find its way to Gov. Cuomo’s desk, where it would be gleefully signed into law.
In Parker’s view of things, invading a person’s privacy as his bill would do, apparently is a reasonable response to the tragic shooting at a Pittsburgh Synagogue in October. The reality is that Parker’s idea is nowhere close to reasonable or constitutional.
What, exactly, would New York’s Finest be looking for, in such canvassing of citizens’ social media and internet search history? According to the proposal, they would be on the lookout for any “issue deemed necessary by the investigating officer.” In other words, anything a law enforcement officer might find suspicious or not in accord with their notion of what an actual or prospective gun owner should be looking at on the internet or communicating via social media.
How would these law enforcement snoops gain access to citizens’ private social media and internet information? Simple. As a requirement for completing the paperwork necessary to purchase the firearm or to obtain or renew a permit, the person would have to give the police their log-in credentials and passwords. In so doing the individual loses control over all their data -- past, present, and probably future.
This 21st Century internet fishing expedition, fueled by New York’s longstanding disdain for the Second Amendment, would accomplish two things; neither of which is good.
First, having to submit to such an intrusive search of one’s social media and internet usage, will have a chilling effect on individuals seeking to purchase or carry a firearm. This, of course, is exactly what Parker and his cohorts want – fewer and fewer citizens being able to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Second, and even more important, giving law enforcement the power to scour at will your personal social media and internet history, means they can (and will) look for anything that from their perspective, indicates actual or potential unlawful or inappropriate behavior (including matters having nothing to do with firearms), and therefore worthy of further investigation and possible prosecution.
Not to be deterred, Parker and others who support his anti-Second Amendment crusade, likely would argue that the searches that would be undertaken if his proposal becomes law, would be “voluntary” since the purchaser or applicant is giving “consent” simply by expressing a desire to buy or carry a firearm. Such twisted logic is used by governments at all levels all the time. First, government mandates that citizens comply with certain regulations if they want to exercise a right (whether that be possessing a firearm, engaging in a financial transaction, or something else). Next, government uses the information thus obtained against the citizen. Finally, government lawyers defend against constitutional challenges by arguing that the citizen “consented” to the government’s action.
This is a clever circular argument favored by the Regulatory State, and which is all too often accepted by federal and state court judges.
Concerns such as these, rooted in the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, don’t even address other constitutional defects in Parker’s proposal; among which are its chilling effect on free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
During one 2016 Republican presidential primary debate, Donald Trump took Sen. Ted Cruz to task (quite effectively) for criticizing “New York values.” If those values are represented by legislation such as Sen. Parker is proposing, then Cruz made a valid point.