So­cial me­dia scrub in N.Y. gun-buy bill

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By ALEXI CO­HAN —­han@boston­her­

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.

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