In the wake of the massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh, two Brooklyn pols called for a state law requiring law enforcement to examine the social media posts for all gun license applicants over the preceding three-year period and one year of internet searches before approval.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Flatbush) said the measure would enable cops to catch possible threats to public safety before they get gun permits. Pittsburgh gunman Robert Bowers had no criminal record and was a licensed gun owner, but he made a series of anti-Semitic posts before he waded into the Tree of Life Synagogue and opened fire Oct. 27 during a bris.
Among his posts on the since-removed gab.com website, he called immigrants “invaders” and railed against a Jewish organization that funds immigration efforts. Five minutes before the shooting started, he posted, “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”
“The shooter in Pennsylvania had no criminal flags. You would have thought this person was a model citizen until you examined his social media profile,” Adams said. “He was a broken citizen. He was a time bomb waiting to explode and that is why it’s important to do this type of review.”
Adams and Parker said the standard for concern would be racist, anti-social or violent posts, those that exhibit behavior of a potentially violent emotionally disturbed person and those that suggest an imminent threat to public safety. Adams likened the proposal to the social media searches that cops do routinely in criminal investigations.
Adams noted, “Someone can technically say on their social media profile ‘I’m going to buy a gun to go shoot someone’ and still walk in the store and buy the gun without the flagging of that illegal action.”
Parker said the bills would cover posts to the top four social media websites — Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, and the main search engines, including Google, Yahoo and Bing. People requesting recertification would also be checked.
“The question is how much is it going to cost in human lives if we don’t start checking social media,” he said.
Adams said the bills take the First Amendment right to free speech and the Second Amendment right to bear arms into the equation.
“We’re not talking about a person advertising ‘I hate a particular elected official. I hate a policy that’s passed,’” Adams said. “If there’s something that a law enforcement officer of a reasonable mind reviewed that shows this person does not hold the mental capacity to own a gun, then he should not be able to get a permit. We should use the same standard that determines whether a police officer can carry a gun.”
The pols are still working out the mechanism for law enforcement access to the social media posts but said it was limited. “We’re not going into the laptops. Looking at what’s out there already,” Adams said.
Adams previously encouraged off-duty and retired cops to carry their weapons in places of worship
The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment. The New York State Police declined comment.