From New York City Patch: Two Brooklyn politicians want cops to examine New Yorkers’ online activity to prevent more hate-fueled tragedies like the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. State Sen. Kevin Parker and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams proposed legislation Friday that would incorporate social media accounts into background checks for gun buyers.
They argue doing so would help law enforcement authorities spot dangerous people like Robert Bowers, who reportedly declared his hatred for Jewish people online before allegedly killing 11 people last Saturday.
“You would have thought this person was a model citizen until you examined his social media profile,” said Adams, a Democrat. “And you would have noticed he was not a model citizen, he was a broken citizen that was a time bomb that was waiting to explode.”
The pair of bills would empower the New York State Police and local departments like the NYPD to check three years of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat activity for anyone applying for a gun license in New York, Parker said.
Authorities would flag anything that is an “immediate threat to public safety,” he said. Gun buyers would also have to let police comb through a year’s worth of their search engine histories under the legislation.
The state’s SAFE Act — known as one of the nation’s toughest gun laws — requires instant federal background checks for all gun sales except those between immediate family members. But lawmakers have to do more in the wake of recent hate crimes such as the Pittsburgh shooting, Parker said.
“We certainly want to make sure that we’re adding to the protections that we need to make sure that people that we’re putting handguns and rifles and shotguns in the possession, that they in fact are the people that are using them in the right way,” Parker said.
The syngagogue massacre, in which 11 people died, came just a day after federal authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man accused of mailing bombs to high-profile Democratic figures. Sayoc had searched for his targets’ addresses online, federal prosecutors allege.
Lawmakers are still working out exactly how law-enforcement officials would go about accessing social media profiles that are not publicly viewable, Parker said, though he noted the legislation would require gun buyers to make their profiles available.
“We’re going look at what’s in the universe already and use that as one of the tools to determine the profile of a person who’s attempting to purchase a handgun,” Adams said.
The legislation also would not cover more obscure social media sites such as Gab, on which Bowers reportedly signaled that he was going to carry out violence. But Parker said officials wanted to go after the “low-hanging fruit.”
“How much is it going to cost in human lives if we don’t start checking people’s social media and trying to get a good sense of their understanding?” Parker said.