Dignitaries sound alarm on social media history added to gun background checks

Ranzenhofer: Bill is "outrageous" and "offensive"

Mike Baggerman
November 27, 2018 - 3:00 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer called a bill which would mandate a background check of social media when applying for a handgun license "outrageous".

The bill, which was introduced by Brooklyn State Senator Kevin Parker earlier this month, would require the person applying for the license to consent to a check of their social media accounts and search engine history. Search of the social media will require the applicant to provide their username, password, and any other information needed to access a personal social media page such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Only Google, Yahoo, and Bing would be searched if the bill passes. 

READ MORE: State legislator wants authorities to investigate social media when applying for handgun license

"It really shocks the conscience of ordinary people, especially of those living here in Western New York," Ranzenhofer told WBEN. "Quite frankly, this is an example of the type of legislation that we are now going to see with downstate democrats from New York City taking over the entire legislature."

Ranzenhofer called the bill the first of what will be many types of bills like this.

"I just think that most ordinary people find this very offensive and without any public policy reason for enacting it," he added. "Law enforcement can, if they want and there's an issue, look into your social media accounts. To open it up and say anybody who is making this type of application is going to have their Twitter, Snapchat, or Facebook, search history...I just think it shocks the conscience of ordinary Western New Yorkers and is really, very, very offensive."

Democrats took over the New York State legislature in the midterm elections for the first time in a decade. Previously, republicans only had control of the state senate and denied democrats a push on several bills. Likewise, democrats in the assembly denied republican efforts in the state senate. 

Ranzenhofer, who is a member of the rules committee, which the bill is currently in, said republicans will have to use the "power of persuasion" in order to stall the bill from passing.

"We will point out what a bad bill this is," he said. "Hopefully, people from other portions of the state will rise up and tell senators that introduce bills like this that this is the wrong way to go. It does not solve any problems. New York right now has the toughest and most restrictive gun laws on the books, bar none. Again, I feel people from the New York City area feel emboldened...That's why this piece of legislation and other pieces of legislation like it will be common, ordinary, everyday discussions in the state senate."

Ranzenhofer said it already takes an individual 18 months to obtain a pistol permit in Erie County. He also called the various background checks for jobs like teaching and bus driving "robust". 

"If somebody is that blatant (about social media threats), state police have the ability to look at those type of things," Ranzenhofer added. "If somebody is making an active threat, that is available for inspection right now. To just do it for hundreds of thousands of people or tens of thousands of people, to open their social media history...or someone's buying history...to have that turned over to the government without any acknowledgement about what happens to that information, people should be scared of that."

Ranzenhofer said he has not spoken to Parker about the bill. He also said there will likely be a sponsor in the assembly in time. 

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns also said he's concerned about the bill and believes that it's a violation of first amendment rights. 

"When people do apply for a pistol permit there's an extensive background check done by law enforcement for residents in many communities," Kearns said. "Also, there's a mental health check by the FBI. For me, right now, even just dealing with the re-certification process that was required with the passage of the SAFE Act, state police can barely handle completing that task and it hasn't even been completed yet."

Kearns said the passage of the bill will add time to the process. 

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