It shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the gun ban zealots have been heading in this direction for a very long time, but it’s still somehow shocking to see them actually come out and try to make it become the law of the land that anyone deemed by “the authorities” to hold objectionable views be denied the right to keep and bear arms.
For now, when I say “law of the land,” I mean only the land of the state of New York—a state, to be sure, in which the anti-gun jihadists have reigned supreme for a century. The cancer of this kind of legislation is undoubtedly a highly metastatic one, with much potential to spread to other states, and even a small swing of the pendulum in national politics could put such malignant legislation in play on the federal level.
To specifics. In November, New York State Senator Kevin Parker and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced their intention to introduce legislation that would empower the state to require applicants for a handgun permit (a longstanding, already egregious requirement in the state) to allow state “authorities” to search their social media history, and even their internet search history, trolling for an excuse to deny the permit.
For New York City residents, that’s a seemingly redundant requirement, given the fact that for those stuck in the Big Apple, a “may issue” regime (even for a permit to possess a handgun, much less carry one outside the home), their overlords are already empowered to deny the permit without offering any excuse whatsoever.
On November 14, Parker got the ball rolling with his introduction of New York Senate Bill S9191, which would require applicants for a permit to carry a handgun—or merely to own one—to consent to the local police searching their social media history for the past three years, and even their internet search history for the past year. This delving through one’s internet history would also occur every time the permit is renewed (the handgun permit is good for five years).
Grounds for permit denial would include use of derogatory language regarding, race, gender, religion, national origin, skin color, disabilities, and sexual orientation. Threatening the health or safety of another person would also be grounds for denial, as would “acts of terrorism” (more on that in a moment). Most chilling of all is this last provision: “any other issue deemed necessary by the police authority.”
That, of course, means anything “the authorities” want it to mean. And without knowing what we’re not supposed to say (or search for), it’s impossible for anyone who might want to own a gun (or continue to own a handgun) at some point in the future to know what is now off limits.
By including the permit applicant’s internet search history, it seems that even trying to research these topics is verboten. Want to know more about the Oklahoma City bombing or the September 11 attacks? Better not search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo if you ever want to own a handgun in New York.
Be careful about a Google search on many rap lyrics, given rap’s extensive use of the “N-word” and misogynistic language. If this sounds like an alarmist interpretation of the text of the legislations, keep in mind that one of the forbidden items for one’s social media and search history is “acts of terrorism.” Not threatening to commit such an act, as specified in the provision about the health and safety of another person, but apparently just mentioning such acts.
Not quite two weeks later, Parker doubled down with S9197. This legislation uses language identical to that in S9191, in order to subject prospective buyers of long guns (rifles and shotguns) to the same intense scrutiny as Parker wants to inflict on handgun owners.
These bills were introduced in the immediate aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, apparently motivated by a twisted hatred of Jews. The legislation specifically cites that atrocity as justification for such an extreme measure, stating that, “Although New York State has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, we can no longer provide protection to existing gun owners at the expense of the rest of society.” In other words, honoring the right of free speech to gun owners is now an unacceptable “expense” for society.
To be clear: The hatred that drove the Tree of Life Synagogue shooter and others like him is sheer evil, and the practitioners of such evil are true subhuman filth. But even subhuman filth has rights. To threaten to kill or grievously injure another is rightly already a crime, and by all means, let’s prosecute those who do so to the full extent of the law.
But for those whose hatred, however vile and repugnant it is, has not yet driven them to commit any such crimes, there is no defensible way to deprive them of their Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human rights. And there is certainly no morally defensible way to deprive such rights on the grounds of any internet search.
These hate-driven killers are indeed dangerous, but far more terrifying is the idea of making the expression of certain (unspecified) thoughts grounds for denying fundamental rights.
Parker is the biggest terrorist in this discussion.
A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denied that right. This inspired him to become active in gun rights advocacy.