A bill was recently proposed in New York that is so stupid, that even people well aware with how stupid New York’s government officials are might do a double take. This is the very same state that just elected a woman to the House of Representatives who literally doesn’t know what the 3 branches of government are or how unemployment rates work. I give it about 3 more decades before New York actually turns into a John Carpenter movie.
The dumb bill in question (because there are many) proposes that anyone looking to buy a new gun, or renew their current permit, must legally allow the government to snoop through three years (I’m sure we can trust them to stop at just three) of their personal online data. This includes things like social media accounts and online histories. Holy absolutely unconstitutional authoritarian overreach, Batman.
What are our benevolent overlords in the government going to be looking for? Threats to the safety of others, intentions to commit terrorism, profane slurs, or biased language pertaining to race, color, origin, gender, religion, age, disabilities, or sexual orientation.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Jokingly call your friend a retard on facebook? The New York Gestapo might see this as “biased language” disparaging the handy-capable. No guns for you.
What about if you threatened to kill another person on twitter in jest. You know, like Kathy Griffin and countless other blue checkmarks have done to President Trump and members of his family. Sorry folks, but no gun rights for you any more.
How about if you voice sentiments critical of Israel on your myspace page? Well that could be (and quite often is) misconstrued as antisemitic speech. Congratulations! You’re possibly guilty of biased language pertaining to matters of race, origin, and religion. That’s a three-hit wrong-think combo. The second Amendment no longer exists for you.
The fact that there are actually people who think a proposal like this is a good idea is beyond depressing. This is ironically similar to the stop-and-frisk policies (also a New York staple) that liberals absolutely hate and conservatives foolishly justify by saying “well, if you don’t do anything wrong you have nothing to worry about”. Except now it’ll be the conservatives complaining about government overreach, and liberals taking the brilliant “don’t say something wrong, you have nothing to worry about” stance.
It’s also quite ironic that the people so vehemently outspoken against George W Bush’s NSA overreach (though most remain pro-Obama, even though he was a far worse violator of privacy rights(irony²)) seem to be the ones backing this gross violation, because what even is moral consistency?
The bill currently violates the first (freedom of speech), second (right to bear arms), fourth (unreasonable search and seizure), fifth (due process), and fourteenth (forbids states from passing unconstitutional laws) amendments. That has to be some sort of new record for legislative incompetence. Good job, Kevin Parker, you simple human being.
This bill is a problem for the same reason no-fly lists being a factor in firearm eligibility is a problem. It would be great if we lived in a utopian world full of rainbows and unicorns, wherein some magic list existed that provides the easily-digestible answers to every issue. This is far from the reality we live in though. In reality, the U.S. government tends to be far from efficient, and not very capable of balancing a budget, let alone maintaining any kind of valid list.
As it turns out, people have ended up on no-fly lists before, with no way of knowing why they were on said list, or how to get off of it. It’s like some twisted Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment mixed with a dash of complete bureaucratic incompetency.
People have ended up on no-fly lists due to name mix-ups, random human errors, mere speculation, and outright political discrimination. When you combine this with a complete lack of due process, you end up with people being unfairly screwed over, and prevented from flying due to no fault of their own. To further start stripping these people of their constitutional rights on top of that is a recipe for disaster. The ACLU, for all their numerous faults, have actually rightly protested these no-fly lists.
Allowing the government to root through people’s personal data takes the terrible idea inherent in no-fly lists to the next level. Who exactly is going to be the final arbiter of what’s intended as a joke, and what’s serious? Is the government going to ask you whether you said something in jest, or do they simply get to assume the context behind a statement regardless of the intent? This opens the door for rampant abuse of power.
Keep in mind, a man (Mark Meechan) was prosecuted in Scotland for uploading a video in which he taught his pug to do a Nazi salute. At the beginning of the video, he mentions that he is doing so as a joke, and that he was going to “turn [the dog] into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”
Yet somehow, the fact that the video was intended as a joke was outright disregarded, as the government decided that they, and not Mr. Meechan, would get to be the ones to determine the intent of the video. The government ultimately decided that he intended the video to be pro-Nazi propaganda, and not the joke it was in fact created to be.
The person who made the joke didn’t get to decide his intent, the government did. That is dystopian, and that is what an absolutely idiotic bill like S9191 would be ushering in within the U.S. judicial system.
A bill like this is just another shiny object created by the government to distract everyone from that fact that most high profile shootings could be prevented if our government was simply less incompetent. Law enforcement and the FBI fail time and time again to enforce laws that exist, and properly conduct investigations pertaining to those laws. Look into practically any mass shooting, from Nikolas Cruz, to San Bernardino, to The Pulse Night Club, and you’ll see that just about every one of them could have been prevented if the local police or FBI had done their jobs correctly.
Either the authorities were notified about the individual numerous times and never followed the proper course of action, or the FBI investigated, but never took the necessary steps to prevent the shooter from making a legal gun purchase. All three of the above shootings involved people the FBI had already been investigating, but for whatever reason never followed through on, ultimately allowing 80 deaths to occur.
But hey, lets just strip people of their constitutional rights, instead of holding people whose salaries we pay to any kind of standard as far as actually doing their jobs. That’s the far better alternative, obviously.
Wall Street Journal article on bureaucratic incompetency: