As if Chicago didn’t already have some of the most oppressive gun control laws in the nation. (None of which have led to a significant decline in their massive murder rate.) Now they’re pondering a new law that would supposedly offer the police additional “tools” when considering firearms permit applications. If enacted, applicants would need to provide authorities with access to their complete social media history. What specific nuggets from your tweets, DMs, Instagram pictures and Facebook updates could bar you from exercising your Second Amendment rights? They don’t say. (CBS Chicago)
“This is something my community is demanding action on,” said Rep. Daniel Didech (D-Buffalo Grove).
That’s why Didech is proposing gun buyers reveal their public social media accounts to Illinois police before they’re approved for a firearm license.
“A lot of people who are having mental health issues will often post on their social media pages that they’re about to hurt themselves or others,” Didech said. “We need to give those people the help they need.”
Pro-gun groups are outraged.
They’re invoking the names of mass shooters like Nicholas Cruz and Ian David Long in calling for such a law. And if we only looked at the most extreme end of the spectrum you might think a law like this could improve public safety. But would it really? Keep in mind that Cruz never actually threatened to kill anyone on social media. At most, he posted “disturbing” pictures of himself with a legally owned firearm and talked about hunting and target practice with a pellet gun. Disturbing, perhaps, but not illegal.
With hindsight being 20/20, we’d obviously love to be able to predict when somebody was going to go off the rails and commit a terrible crime. But this isn’t a real-life version of Minority Report. If you offer authorities the opportunity to pick and choose what social media posts are disqualifying for gun ownership, you’re opening the door to massive potential abuse.
It’s no surprise that the Illinois State Rifle Association is opposing this bill, but they’re not the only ones. It’s bad enough that even the ACLU is giving it a thumbs down.
Rebecca Glenberg with ACLU Illinois says the bill “doesn’t say anything about how that list will be retained and for how long and what uses it might be put to.”
The first amendment group worries police scanning social media may show bias.
“A person’s political beliefs, a person’s religious beliefs, things that should not play a part in whether someone gets a FOID card,” Glenberg said.
In the end, this comes down to a case of allowing the government to suspend your constitutional rights for… saying things. It’s true that there are limits to free speech, and if someone has been going on social media and threatening to harm people (or harm themselves), that’s a valid reason to hold up a permit. But such threats are already a crime and authorities should be alerted to such postings and taking action in advance. If Chicago allows people to be banned from gun ownership based on one person being “disturbed” by something they said on Twitter, they can effectively shut down the permit process in most cases.