On November 26, 2018, I had the pleasure to be interviewed by Spectrum News reporter Vince Briga about the Social Media Password Bill (S09191). The Bill was submitted quietly, out of session, by State Senator Kevin S. Parker on November 14th. That article and video can be seen here – http://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/binghamton/politics/2018/11/26/ny-lawmaker–scour-social-media-before-issuing-gun-licenses.
As far as I have been able to notice, I was the first, if not among the first in news media to break the story. Since then it has been growing in attention. I received a response to my request for comment from State Senator Fred Akshar on the 26th as well. Included in coverage by Spectrum was the direct justification of Parker for the Bill. I want to properly address that.
The Bill and Senator Akshar’s view
Let me start with the simple summary of Bill S09191. It would require, if passed, that a handgun owner or applicant must “voluntarily” provide their social media passwords to an unspecified representative of the Government for review of the past 3 years. In addition the firearm owner or applicant must submit, “voluntarily”, their search engine history for review of the prior year. The Government would look for any non-PC discussions or statements, as well as any item identified as “deemed necessary”. There is no definition of what that might entail.
“I’ve long said that we must have a reasonable and robust conversation on utilizing common-sense measures to protect our communities from senseless and hateful violent acts while also protecting law-abiding gun owners. Senator Parker’s new bill may be well-intentioned, but the broad language used in the bill text leaves much open to interpretation. My team and I will continue studying the bill and reaching out to both law enforcement and the people I represent in the 52nd District for their input on allowing access to 1-3 years of Google search history and social media posts as part of pistol license application and renewal. It will no doubt be part of the broader conversation on gun control discussed in the coming legislative session.”
State Senator Parker’s defense
The Bill, and Parker, make a leap of logic presuming that the actions of the Bill would make the public safer. I refute that. This was publicly stated in my article – NY wants to know your social media password, for your safety. I also addressed consequences and the very likely potential abuses of the Password Bill in a public Facebook Live simulcast of the No Soundbites Allowed podcast. Which led to the aforementioned interview with Spectrum News.
This led to State Senator Parker defending the Bill. He said,
“We’re in a new age of new technology and we need new rules. And so we need to begin a conversation about the way that we monitor social media in the way of giving out dangerous weapons.”
Specifically, Parker’s Password Bill seems intended to target mass shootings – though it is not clear in this distinction. Even in this severely small subset of crime, one of the least likely ways to be killed in America, legal ownership is not a prominent factor. Nor am I aware of a single case where the mass shooter actively sought a legal permit as an integral part of their subsequent crime. If it were that simple, or even accurate, Parker would not be the first to come up with the idea.
Flaws in Password Bill and Parker’s defense
Further, we are not in a new age of mass shootings. Mass shootings have been happening in the US since 1949. The number of mass shootings, in more recent history, is actually consistent when viewed over the past 40 years. The subset of mass school shootings is actually down since the 1990’s.
What has changed is the ability of news media to share these events with the public, and the public to further share that news directly. What may have taken days to reach a majority of Americans now takes seconds. In addition, the emphasis of the modern news cycle to get eyeballs straddles the line of fame and infamy in presenting the coverage to the public. Thus, each mass shooting feels bigger and more personal, though it may well been within historic norms.
Let me also address “new rules”. State Senator Parker is offering nothing new. The ONLY response to mass shootings, and in fact any crime involving firearms, is to remove firearms. Nothing else has really ever been offered. That removal has both been in laws to restrict initial ownership of firearms, as well as removing the right of ownership once a firearm is owned.
We must also address the effectiveness of restriction or hindrance of firearm ownership – a Right guaranteed by the Second Amendment, so it should not be taken lightly. To date, every gun control law (since the National Firearms Act of 1934) has functionally failed. No matter the name given to the law or its terms, gun control or Red Flag or Executive Order, they are proven ineffective each time a crime is committed with a firearm. Even when such laws are stacked, and taken to extreme, they have failed. Just look to Chicago to see literally daily failures.
Parker’s emotional plea
Thus back to Parker, let’s think about what he is proposing as his defense. Social media will tell us which firearms to hinder or remove. How? Seriously, how? Parker says,
“Ask the families of the people who were murdered in Pittsburgh if they thought it would be too far to make sure that person — that murderer — didn’t get their hands on a dangerous weapon and weren’t able to kill their loved ones.”
Let’s first presume, as we must to take this proposed law seriously, that a criminal or a deranged person is seeking a permit for ownership of a firearm – in order to commit a crime. That is the logic the Password Bill presumes. While a fraction, a minute fraction, of legal gun owners do use firearms to commit crimes, the overwhelming number of crimes with firearms are not by legal gun owners. This is magnified when it comes to mass shootings.
The obvious weakness of this appears to be known to State Senator Parker as he pivots to emotion. Logic flies out the window as Parker appeals to raw feelings of those in distress to push the public to support his political preference. If you don’t agree with him, you must be evil. I reject such an insulting implication.
It’s seems it must be stated that there is no one that would want to arm a criminal or deranged person as Senator Parker implies. To attribute such evil intentions on fellow Americans, simply because of a difference of opinion and support of a Constitutional Right, is wrong. Let me add that being elected does not allow an individual to toss around accusations and incriminations without cause or with impunity.
Let’s also consider the adage that ‘2 wrongs don’t make a right.’ Simply said, putting all our eggs in a Government basket and hoping for a positive result is foolish and prone to corruption. Ask David Hogg about how he felt, after emotionally demanding that Government apply its full force to protect the Parkland students,
“What we should have is just more policies that make sure that these students are feeling safe and secure in their schools and not like they’re being fought against like it’s a prison.”
Hogg got the Government influence, and then regretted it. State Senator Parker wants even more Government control under emotional terms. What happens when the private information is used to stalk a woman, or destroy a business? What happens when the Government uses its power to harass citizens with arrests and investigations that would never otherwise happen, solely because of private information now in Government possession? Plus the host of other abuses I have spoken about previously.
Ultimately, emotional pleas do not make the public safer. Gun-free zones do not make the public safer. 40 years of gun restriction policy do not make the public safer. Those aren’t opinions, they are empirical facts that are well documented.
Let’s be fair and look at what this Password Bill will do, if the public allows it to be passed. It will allow the Government to identify people that do not agree with policies it promotes. It will allow agents of the Government to persecute citizens, under a host of reasons that otherwise would be impossible to do. It will leave criminals untouched. It will dissuade none of the mentally deranged; driving some into deeper secrecy making it harder to identify them and justifying their belief they are being unfairly persecuted.
Those are real, logical outcomes. Yes, mathematically it should stop at least 1 mass shooting. By the odds it should prevent some number of crimes. Then again, by the same odds and math, the thousands of laws on murder and violence and gun restriction already in place are already preventing those crimes as much as possible.
It’s time we seriously stop attacking law abiding citizens. We need to focus on the root causes of mass shootings and violent crimes. There isn’t just one cause, and the solution will take time. But a massive sledgehammer of Government oppression is the least likely answer for a free nation.
State Senator Kevin Parker isn’t trying to protect the public, with a Bill he near secretly submitted. If this was about public safety he would have had a press conference. He would have released statements, promising that 2019 will be the year passage was assured.
No this is about power. The power of a Government, run by a single Party, with a goal of oppression. You may disagree, as is your Right. But if you read this on the internet, especially via social media, Parker’s dream 2019 NY Government can use it to suppress and oppress your freedom. Just because you read this, and 1 out of 4 New Yorkers are a firearm owner and part of your social media contacts.
There are literally dozens of reasons, beyond what I have discussed so far, that refute the Password Bill. The violation of DC vs. Heller. The violation of the 4th Amendment. The violation of NY Penal Law – Coercion in the 2nd Degree. The violation of the 2nd Amendment. The list is massive. But there is one real reason for the Password Bill – power of Government, as applied by the fringe of one political Party.
The public should be wary. Because while this Bill had the luck of having a click-bait friendly title to draw interest. The next abuse of power – and the ones already moving forward like Red Flag legislation – won’t.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc.