A proposed law calling for the addition of a social media search component to law enforcement background checks for pistol permits appears to be a misfire for local gun owners.

State Senator Kevin Parker’s proposed bill would allow law enforcement to search social media before approving a handgun license or rectifying one. The bill would change New York’s gun laws to allow authorities to search social media for potential red flags before approving a handgun license.

Several local gun owners expressed their reservations and concerns about the proposed bill this week.  

Sanborn Gun Shop owner Jerry Buzzeo said when someone would like to purchase a pistol there is about a four- to five-month process they must go through to obtain their pistol permit. First, they must submit an application, get fingerprinted and photographed. Then, law enforcement has to do a background check and, when that is finished, they must do an National Rifle Association-sanctioned safety course. After all of that, a judge will review the application and grant it if they find everything is in order. 

Another background check is then performed by the gun store. 

Buzzeo, a pistol owner himself, doesn’t believe checking social media would result in safer communities. 

“It’s not the legal gun owners that are committing the crimes, not the person waiting four months,” Buzzeo said. “It’s not that person that is out there committing the crimes.” 

Ed Pettitt, president of the Second Amendment for EVER chapter in Niagara County, agreed with Buzzeo’s sentiments.

“I think that it doesn’t provide any increase in public safety,” Pettitt said. “It basically tries to disenfranchise the free speech rights of those who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”

He believes the background check process is pretty extensive, noting that multiple character witnesses are required during the law enforcement investigation. Another point he raised was that good citizens with guns provides more safety because criminals are less likely to commit crimes if they think someone might have a firearm to protect themselves. 

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, called the bill a “clear infringement” on multiple constitutional rights, including the first and second amendments. 

“There is no doubt that this legislation is intended to further reduce legal gun ownership in our state. To ask American citizens to forfeit one constitutional right in order to exercise another is absurd,” he said. 

Paul McQuillen, the upstate coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said his organization has not officially decided its position on this proposed law, but that they plan to discuss it in their next conference call, which is planned for next week. 

Parker’s bill, which was submitted on Nov. 14, would mandate that applicants provide investigators with their Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram passwords and access to their Google, Yahoo and Bing searches, according to the Associated Press. 

The Brooklyn Democrat wants investigators to look at the last three years of an applicant’s social media postings and a year of their search histories for “any good cause for the denial of a license,” such as racial slurs, threats of violence and terrorism-related posts, according to the Associated Press.

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