Social media check for gun owners proposed

Illinois Capitol News
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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A week after Governor JB Pritzker (D) signed a controversial gun safety bill targeting gun shops, a new Democrat is taking on gun owners through social media.

The freshman lawmaker wants the Illinois State Police (ISP) to check a person’s social media account for dangerous behavior before approving a FOID card. The idea is only four days old, but already has a lot of people talking.

Law enforcement can already access public social media posts. The plan would just require they check before approving someone to purchase a gun.

Nowhere in the bill does it give ISP access to private passwords. A proposal requiring state police to check social media accounts of FOID applicants has sent some people into a fury.

“It’s a little bit scary to think we’d direct the state police to look at social media accounts,” said Representitive Tim Butler (R) Springfield.  “Just over the weekend, I’ve got dozens of emails sent to my office opposing this legislation. I’ve talked to several people who are opposed to it.”

At a National Guard ceremony, Butler joined a growing group of GOP lawmakers and gun owners who are outraged. The bill mandates gun applicants hand over a list of social media handles to the state.

State police officials would check pages to determine if the person is a danger to themselves or others.

“I don’t know what requiring someone to look at someone’s social media account will do. Like I said, they already have the ability to have a background check on you which is the legal requirement for FOID, which, I think, is the proper way to go. And, just because someone posts something, we don’t know what the standards are for looking at social media,” said Butler.

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Daniel Didech (D) Buffalo Grove says the bill won’t change federal qualifications. Didech defended his plan calling it a proactive approach to catch warning signs and prevent mass killings.

Like Governor Pritzker, Didech campaigned on a mission to fix gun violence. Pritzker was reluctant to weigh in Monday.

“As you know, I want to keep our families and children safe across the state,” said Pritzker. “I want to make sure gun safety legislation is reasonable gun safety legislation put in place and so, I’d have to review that particular piece of legislation.”

It’s not uncommon for those wanting to inflict violence on others to use social media as an outlet. The school shooter in Parkland, Florida, and the accused mosque bombers from Illinois, are among many who have made threats online before taking action.

The ACLU says the plan is a privacy issue that raises serious constiutional concerns.

“Without a clear public safety need, this proposal opens the door for police to deny a FOID card based on the speech of an applicant,” said ACLU Illinois Senior Staff Counsel Rebecca Glenberg.”Also problematic, once an applicant submits a list of social media accounts, the statute does not specify how long the list will be kept, who will have access to it, and whether it may be used for purposes other than looking for information about whether the person is qualified to receive a permit.Moreover, some people open social media accounts under pseudonyms to discuss private information anonymously, or provide anonymous comments on matters of public concern. Anonymous speech is protected by the Constitution. Since lying on a FOID application is a Class 2 felony, an applicant could be faced with the choice of disclosing an account meant to be anonymous and criminal liability.”

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