ALBANY — Conservative lawmakers are preparing to challenge New York’s recently enacted gun laws in court, arguing rules requiring people to let officials access their social media accounts to assess “character and conduct” are unconstitutional.
State GOP chairman Nick Langworthy and Conservative party head Jerry Kassar jointly vowed to file a suit against the new restrictions.
“We have been working the phones and talking to legal experts to build a coalition and bring a winning case that will stop this law in its tracks,” Langworthy said.
Gov. Hochul signed sweeping new limits on carrying concealed weapons in the Empire State last week in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a century-old New York law that limited who could obtain a license.
The new law carves out “sensitive locations” such as Times Square, schools, parks and hospitals as gun-free zones and outlaws concealed weapons at private businesses unless a sign is posted saying armed patrons are welcome.
It also requires permit applicants to undergo 15 hours of in-person training at a firing range, sit down for an in-person interview, provide contact information for household members, renew licenses after three years and provide access to social media accounts.
Concerns have been raised about the social media component of the law.
Adam Scott Wandt, a public policy professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Associated Press that while he supports gun control measures, he worries the statute could set a precedent for mandatory disclosure of social media activity for other types of licenses from the state.
“I think that what we might have done as a state here in New York is, we may have confirmed their worst fears — that a slippery slope will be created that will slowly reduce their rights to carry guns and allow a bureaucracy to decide, based on unclear criteria, who can have a gun and who cannot,” Wandt said. “Which is exactly what the Supreme Court was trying to avoid.”
The law requires applicants to provide licensing officials, often local sheriffs or county clerks’ offices, with a list of current and former social media accounts from the previous three years. Officials will then have to scour the profiles to see if the person has posted anything indicating dangerous behavior.
Several young men accused of carrying out recent mass shootings, including one in Buffalo that left 10 Black shoppers dead and a school shooting in Texas where nineteen students and two teachers were killed, have used social media to telegraph their intentions.
The new law, which takes effect Sept. 1, was approved by the Democrat-led Legislature during a two-day “extraordinary session” called by Hochul to address the Supreme Court decision.
Elizabeth Fine, Hochul’s chief counsel, said last week that the Supreme Court ruling clearly leaves states in charge of “determining qualifications and who’s eligible to carry a weapon.”
“I don’t think that there’s any question but that the state has the authority and the responsibility to review applicants for licenses to make sure that they are not going to pose a danger to themselves or others if they are able to get a gun,” Fine said.
Kassar, however, said he believes Democrats have gone too far and is gearing up for another legal fight.
“We have proven that we will use every resource at our disposal to fight Democrats in court and win,” he said. “One-Party rule has emboldened Democrats to trample over the constitution and rule of law to enact their radical agenda.”
Tom King, the chairman of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which was part of the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision, said he would welcome another legal battle as well.
“The Supreme Court ruled decisively on this issue and Democrats once again showed complete disregard for New Yorkers’ rights and the rule of law,” he said. “We have also been pulling together legal resources and we are 100% behind their efforts to challenge this law in court.”