A far-reaching bill introduced in the Illinois General Assembly would force state residents applying for gun permits to allow police to inspect their social media accounts as part of the license-approval process.
The state-level measure is part of an avalanche of legislative assaults on the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms that followed high-profile fatal mass shootings such as the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Later that year, fatal school shootings took place in Texas and Indiana. In October, a gunman killed congregants at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a few days later, there was a fatal mass shooting at a bar in the Los Angeles area.
Daniel Didech and Jonathan Carroll, Democrats who represent District 59 and 57, respectively, in the Illinois House of Representatives, are championing the legislation that has earned the ire of Second Amendment supporters.
Didech couches his arguments for the bill in terms of compassion for the mentally ill.
“This is something my community is demanding action on,” Didech told reporters.
“A lot of people who are having mental-health issues will often post on their social media pages that they’re about to hurt themselves or others,” Didech said. “We need to give those people the help they need.”
The bill “gives Illinois State Police additional tools to make sure that dangerous weapons aren’t getting into the hands of dangerous people,” he said.
A summary of Didech’s bill says the measure, if enacted, would empower state police to “conduct a search of the [would-be gun] purchasers’ social media accounts available to the public to determine if there is any information that would disqualify the person from obtaining or require revocation of a currently valid Firearm Owner’s Identification Card. Provides that each applicant for a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card shall furnish to the Department of State Police a list of every social media account.”
Both conservative and liberal activist groups gave the legislation a thumbs-down.
“When people look at this, everyone who has a Facebook account or email account or Twitter account will be incensed or should be,” said Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
Rebecca Glenberg of the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the pending measure “doesn’t say anything about how that [social media] list will be retained and for how long and what uses it might be put to.”
“A person’s political beliefs, a person’s religious beliefs, [are] things that should not play a part in whether someone gets a FOID [Firearm Owners Identification] card,” Glenberg said.
An editorial in the Decatur, Illinois-based Herald & Review also denounced the legislative proposal:
“The vast, vast majority of firearm owners are law-abiding people who enjoy hunting, trap shooting or collecting. It takes only one bad apple to ruin the barrel, but using someone’s social media posts to help determine their ability to own a firearm reaches too far into our right to free speech while trying to uphold our right to bear arms.”
Gun rights supporters point out that people, not guns, kill people, and that guns are already subject to extensive government regulations.
Independence Institute research director David B. Kopel has written that guns are already “the most severely regulated consumer product in the United States—the only product for which FBI permission is required for every single sale.”
The legislation introduced in the Land of Lincoln by Didech and Carroll isn’t even the most intrusive gun-control measure pending in the United States.
As The Epoch Times previously reported, a bill pending in the New York state legislature goes even further, requiring those seeking to buy a handgun to provide their social media usernames and passwords to the police.
If the legislation, spearheaded by Democratic state Sen. Kevin S. Parker, passes, the lawmakers of the Empire State “will essentially have nullified the Second Amendment within its borders,” according to journalist Charles C.W. Cooke.
Didech says the New York bill, which allows police to obtain a gun license applicant’s entire browsing history, goes too far.
New York City has some of the most draconian gun laws in the nation. The city forbids residents from possessing a handgun without a license, and the only license the city makes available to most residents allows holders to possess a handgun only in their home or in transit to one of seven shooting ranges within the city.
A group of Big Apple residents is challenging their city’s law. On Jan. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case known as New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. City of New York, court file number 18-280.