The arms situation in America has long since overflowed. Statistics in the country say mercilessly that there is more than one weapon around for every citizen, and mass shootings have never been so numerous.
The reaction of government agencies? Non-existent, or very slow, hampered by a series of vetoes and cross interests involving lobbies and "intermediate links" between politics and companies. Public opinion (which is undergoing a slow cultural change) always presses a little more on the wave of indignation for the many deaths, but this latest news makes us understand how difficult it will be not to eradicate the phenomenon, but also only notch it.
A little bit 1984, a little bit The Simpsons
New York State will use a new approach to filter out firearms candidates. People who aspire to obtain it will have to provide their social media profiles for “character and conduct” monitoring.
Many Democrats and national arms control organizations in America applaud this initiative. However, many specialists are questioning the way the law is implemented and have expressed concerns about free speech.
Even local officials who will be responsible for reviewing social media posts are wondering if they have the resources to do so and if the provision is constitutional.
Peter Kehoe, of the New York Sheriffs Association, points out the lack of money and staff to handle this new application "process". The bill, he says, violates Second Amendment rights and doubts that this control (in violation of privacy) would work.
Against weapons in America an "army" of officials who peek at people on social networks?
For the avoidance of doubt: it is not a proposal. It is a provision already approved in a law (here it is) and will come into effect in September. It was signed by the governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, based on an assumption (sometimes true): mass murders are sometimes preceded by announcements made on social networks.
What are the details of the law? Applicants for a firearm license must provide local officials with a list of current and previous three years' social media accounts. It will be up to the local sheriff's staff, judges or country employees to analyze those profiles to check for any statements that suggest dangerous behavior.
As if you couldn't delete old accounts, omit others, or delete posts before asking a question to get weapons.
The post could end here if it were "just" yet another useless measure to give people a sop and continue to give away weapons in America as if they were popcorn. Unfortunately, this measure presents very different risks.
A factory of violations (and racism)
"Why limit yourself to creating a facade measure, when I can also offer a new instrument of unjustified surveillance?", The legislator will have asked. And the growing debate in American civil society about surveillance of social media posts (and the risk of it being used as an ax on black communities) creating new tensions. in an already difficult framework it shows it in full evidence.
"The question is, can we take a measure like this in an anti-racist way that doesn't create more violence, state violence that happens through surveillance?" he claims Desmond Upton Patton, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of SAFElab, a research initiative that studies violence involving young people of color.
"How are we going to make it respected?" you ask James Densley, professor of criminal justice at Metro State University. "Nobody has any idea how to do it."
And he is right. How are you going to discern the release of an angry opinion, or a "tough" music video from the mission statement? The Thought Police is getting closer and closer.
Arms in America: from bad to worse
Of course, everyone in Europe (apart, perhaps, the warmongers) supports the need for gun control. And also in the USA a civil movement is growing that would like to get rid of it. Provisions like this, however, end up creating other weapons in America and dangerous precedents: imagine the need to undergo this "social check" also to obtain driving licenses, or other types of licenses.
This New York state law is hasty and vague: useless and harmful. It will be removed, unenforced or worse open to referees.
Yet another example of how the US will have to deal with this "demon" of personal weapons for a long time to come, and with its worst consequences.