Jul 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New York bill could mandate social media checks for gun permit applications

Photo of Kathy Hochul speaking from a podium

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a bill signing ceremony at the Northeast Bronx YMCA on June 6, 2022 in New York City. Photo: Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

A new bill under consideration in the New York state legislature would require social media checks as part of the gun permit application process, so officials could verify the "character and conduct" of applicants.

Why it matters: New York is re-examining its firearms licensing laws after the Supreme Court struck down the state's mandate that people applying for a license to carry a concealed weapon show they have "proper cause" to carry a gun.

Details: The Democratic-led proposal would require applicants to show they have the "essential character, temperament and judgement necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger oneself and others," according to the bill's text.

  • Applicants would have to list any social media accounts they've held in the past three years "to confirm the information regarding the applicant’s character and conduct" — though it's unclear if they would have to give officials access to private accounts.
  • Applicants would also have to provide four character references, take 16 hours of firearms safety training plus two hours of practice at a range, undergo periodic background checks and turn over the contact information of their spouse, domestic partner or any other adults living in their household.

The big picture: The bill came together after Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) ordered the state legislature to convene for an emergency session in response to the Supreme Court ruling.

  • The majority opinion, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, emphasized that it is a constitutional right to carry a weapon in public for self-defense purposes, but Hochul and other leading Democrats in New York have condemned the decision, warning that it could worsen the current gun violence crisis.
  • The New York State Bar Association, which also opposed the court's ruling, has repeatedly pointed to research that shows "laws allowing more citizens to carry guns in public were tied to a rise in gun violence, and the higher a state’s gun-ownership rate, the more likely a mass shooting is to occur."

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