New York’s new concealed-carry law will use social media to determine if a person has become “radicalized” before granting them a permit.
At least, that’s how it will work according to New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D.). She made those remarks during a press conference on Wednesday held to tout the work performed by the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns thus far in 2022.
“I have called upon and am working closely with our Attorney General to identify what’s going on on social media, and those questions are now part of our background checks,” Hochul said. “So, just like in the old days, you’d talk to someone’s neighbor. Now you can talk to their neighbors online and find out whether or not this person has been spouting philosophies that indicate that they have been radicalized.”
“And that’s how we protect our citizens as well,” she added.
Hochul did not elaborate on what the criteria for the checks will be or which “philosophies” will be held to indicate a person is “radicalized.” Her office did not respond to a request for comment.
The Governor’s comments come amidst mounting criticism and multiple legal challenges over the inclusion of a social media check in the state’s updated gun-carry licensing law.
Almost immediately after the Supreme Court struck down the state’s previous concealed carry permitting law over the subjective nature of its “proper cause” requirement, the state retaliated with a broad-ranging replacement law. It contained a plethora of new restrictions and requirements for obtaining a New York license.
One new requirement mandates that a gun license applicant demonstrate “good moral character,” a standard critics have charged is as subjective as the one that was struck down by the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. To meet the “good moral character” requirement, an applicant must provide four character references and submit all social media handles from the previous three years for review by law enforcement officials.
Gun Owners of America argued this requirement violates the constitution and filed a lawsuit to block the new law from taking effect.
“Demanding a list of and potentially access to some vague class of ‘social media accounts of the applicant’ in order to issue a permit to carry a concealed weapon requires disclosure of protected First Amendment speech and press as a condition of exercising another protected constitutional right,” the group’s complaint reads.
A separate suit, filed by New York attorney Jonathan Corbett, similarly takes aim at the social media checks.
“This new law…requires applicants for a gun license to disclose all social media accounts they have used within the previous 3 years, thus forcing applicants to choose between their First Amendment rights to speak and associate anonymously (and their Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy) and their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms,” his complaint states.
Governor Hochul has made cracking down on “hateful conduct” on social media platforms a priority following a mass shooting in Buffalo earlier this May. The shooter in that attack made several online posts outlining his desire to murder Black people as “an act of terrorism” to scare non-Whites into leaving the country. He also posted publicly about his desire to spark a race war. However, he would not have been affected by the new law since he never applied for a concealed carry license.
Following the attack, Hochul signed an executive order establishing a “Task Force on Social Media and Violent Extremism” in the Attorney General’s office and called upon the state police to establish a special unit dedicated to monitoring online extremism.