CHECKING FOR TRIGGERS
Social media scrub in N.Y. gun-buy bill
Passing a social media check could be the next hurdle in purchasing a gun, and Massachusetts organizations are weighing in on the benefits — and disadvantages.
A new bill being drafted in New York would allow authorities to review three years of social media postings and one year of internet search history for any person looking to buy a gun.
Boston developer John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, said the potential Empire State bill could also work well in the Bay State.
“That kind of background information could help determine whether someone should be considered a prohibited buyer or not,” Rosenthal said.
The social media and internet review would look to target any evidence of hate speech, something that Rosenthal said could be a key factor in identifying those who may not be qualified to own a gun.
“It’s a very toxic combination and common thread among mass shooters between a history of hate speech online prior to them actually executing mass shootings,” he said.
Chris Pinto, chairman of Massachusetts Gun Rights Inc., said the idea of social media checks is “ridiculous.”
“I think it’s dangerous. It infringes upon all sorts of rights ... It’s bad in so many ways,” Pinto said. He pointed to a vague definition of hate speech and the responsibility for one to be “their own first responder” by owning a gun.
“A social media check before you get a gun license won’t stop any shootings,” Pinto said. “Every single mass shooter either stole the gun or passed the background check.”
Janet Goldenberg, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said a social media check can be helpful in identifying applicants who may be suicidal.
“In the world we live in sometimes social media is a place where people share their distress,” she said. “Often the cry for help can be found on social media.”
Goldenberg added that threats on social media are often caught by loved ones or friends and should be reported.
“Threats on social media ought to be a red flag and should maybe start a conversation about whether this is an appropriate person to be carrying a gun,” she said.
According to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, with 242 firearm deaths in 2016.
HATE SPEECH: A bill being drafted would require examining three years’ worth of social media posts by potential gun buyers for evidence of, among other things, hate speech.
BULLETPROOF: Gun buyers in New York would face scrutiny of their social media accounts as part of a background check if a proposed law is passed.