News and Commentary

Illinois Bill Would Permit Police To Examine Gun Buyers’ Social Media Accounts Before Purchase

In one of the most unexpected pairings you’ll ever see, the Illinois State Rifle Association and the ACLU are both opposing an Illinois bill proposed by a state representative, but it actually makes sense: the bill would permit Illinois police to peruse the social media accounts of gun purchasers before they’re approved for a firearm license.

As CBS Chicago reports, Rep. Daniel Didech (D-Buffalo Grove) has submitted the bill, claiming, ““This is something my community is demanding action on … It gives Illinois State Police additional tools to make sure that dangerous weapons aren’t getting into the hands of dangerous people,” and adding, “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. We need to give those people the help they need.”

But Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association countered, “When people look at this everyone who has a Facebook account or email account or Twitter account will be incensed or should be.”

And Rebecca Glenberg of the Illinois ACLU added that the bill “doesn’t say anything about how that list may be retained and for how long and what uses it might be put to …” She worried that police could let their bias affect their decision, reflecting, “a person’s political beliefs, a person’s religious beliefs, things that should not play a part in whether someone gets a FOID card or not.”

As Jazz Shaw of HotAir notes:

In the end, this comes down to a case of allowing the government to suspend your constitutional rights for… saying things. It’s true that there are limits to free speech, and if someone has been going on social media and threatening to harm people (or harm themselves), that’s a valid reason to hold up a permit. But such threats are already a crime and authorities should be alerted to such postings and taking action in advance.

A similar bill was offered in New York last fall; state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) brought Senate Bill 9191, which would permit an investigating officer to get the usernames and passwords of gun purchasers so they could examine search histories and accounts.

13WHAM reported that the bill would require “social media and search engine reviews prior to the approval of an application or renewal of a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver; requires a person applying for a license to carry or possess a pistol or revolver or a renewal of such license to consent to having his or her social media accounts and search engine history reviewed and investigated for certain posts and/or searches over a period of 1-3 years prior to the approval of such application or renewal; defines terms.”

13WHAM added:

The bill asks those applying for a gun license or renewing one to give up their log-ins and passwords to social media accounts for open searches going back three years; internet search histories would go back one year. The law would give state and local police the green light to investigate for “commonly known profane slurs used or biased language used to describe race, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation; threatening health or safety of another person, or an act of terrorism.”