Public interest in politics, after election day and the results have been announced on the news, drops about as fast as jumping off a cliff. It happens every year, and politicians know it. Some even take advantage of that fact. Specifically NY-21 State Senator Kevin S. Parker has taken action essentially behind the backs of the public.
The New York State Senate does not have a full year session. In 2018, State Senators worked from January to June in session. Meaning that all Bills could be discussed and voted on in this timeframe. This does not mean that a Bill can only be submitted in that narrow time. But generally few Bills are submitted for consideration late in the year.
State Sen. Parker has apparently used this to his advantage. Taking his cue from the emphasis of Gov. Cuomo to restrict the 2nd Amendment of residents of New York, he has submitted Bill S09191. The fact that this Bill will be considered by a new State Senate that is no longer controlled by Republicans is obviously a factor. Parker has publicly stated, in 2010, that he considered his Republican colleagues as “forces of evil” and “White supremacists”, as noted by the New York Times and CBS News,
“It’s par for the course for what we have to do in Albany – fighting the forces of evil,” Senator Parker said.
Parker shockingly identified the “enemies” he’s fighting as other senators.
“These long-term, white supremacist, you know, Republican senators,” he said.”
S09191 addresses the ownership of a handgun. It proposes that for any revolver or pistol license to be approved or renewed, the applicant must first “volunteer” their passwords to all social media they may have, or had, for the prior 3 years for review. In addition, the applicant must allow a search of their internet activity via search engines for the prior year. The scope of the “voluntary” search is limited to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, and search engines Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Law enforcement, under the proposed legislation, will search the private personal information of the applicant for [emphasis added]
“(i) commonly known profane slurs or biased language used to describe the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person;
(ii) threatening the health or safety of another person;
(iii) an act of terrorism;
or (iv) any other issue deemed necessary by the investigating officer.”
Effect of legislation
Perhaps the least of the troubling generic and undefined terms of the State Senate Bill is the “biased language”. What is biased language? Is calling co-workers “forces of evil” biased? Or an unfounded accusation of “White supremacy”? What if an applicant mentioned the determination of the Department of Homeland Security that Antifa is a domestic terrorist organization? Or they quoted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the “occupation of Palestine”?
Moving on, what if the firearm applicant had an argument with a spouse or significant other on social media – even in a private message. That would now be on record to law enforcement and potentially the public. Or they discussed an affair? Or had a heated argument with anyone over a favorite sports team? What about, and of course no one has ever done this on purpose, but any form of porn that they may have accidentally found via an innocuous search for ‘furry outfit’ or ‘Pandora’s Box’.
But the most troubling of vagaries in this State Senate Bill has to be item IV. The clause “deemed necessary”. What in the world does that mean? How can that possibly be defined? How is it possible NOT to abuse such an ill-defined and all-encompassing directive.
Given these highly subjective parameters, literally every current and future firearm owner in New York could be denied the 2nd Amendment Right to own a handgun. Santa Claus potentially could not pass this “voluntary” requirement. Which should also be discussed. How can anything be “voluntary” if it is required to get approval? This is a demand to violate the 4th Amendment Rights of an individual, in a manner that is unconstitutional in our understanding.
This of course opens the Pandora’s Box of questions about what law enforcement would do if a violation of law is found. What if the applicant admits they jaywalked or some other minor infraction? What if the law enforcement agent, innocently and without potential malice or abuse, decides that something suspicious is in the internet or social media history? Maybe research on Mein Kampf – like was just done for this article – and Antifa. Would this then allow for a potentially public investigation, that could ultimately be fruitless, yet create incalculable damage to an applicant?
Objectively this is a bad law. Subjectively this is horrific legal language, prone to abuse, meant to target and fearmonger a specific class of Americans without cause. All in the name of public safety. Because this will somehow stop a criminal, whom generally do not seek approved firearm licenses. Or the deranged and evil, whom are not known for seeking approval for their actions.
But in an era of anti-Second Amendment rhetoric, where extreme action and restriction is welcomed, such legislation is not only fair-game but likely to pass. Coupled with other abusive legislation like the Red Flag proposals, currently before the State Senate, and an entire class of American citizens are criminals-in-waiting. Guilt has already been assumed, punishment is being mete out, with charges to be applied at some point in the future when needed.
The 2018 elections are over. The public is avoiding politics like a plague. Laws are being proposed to take advantage of it all. Unless the public reacts in time.