On Aug. 24, New York’s Democrat governor Kathy Hochul gave a speech about how the Empire State is combatting what she repeatedly referred to as “gun violence.” Among other things, her remarks suggested that the state will begin using political and ideological litmus tests to determine who is a “suitable person” to own or carry a firearm.
There are two main methods gun control advocates use to advance their agenda, which ultimately would ban firearm ownership for anyone but those who protect the gun control advocates themselves or who prop up their regimes as police, soldiers, security guards, etc.
The first is to ban what they claim are unusually dangerous weapons.
The second is to ban the keeping and bearing of arms by those who they claim are unusually dangerous persons.
At first blush, neither seems like an inherently unreasonable proposition. Indeed, they almost seem like common sense.
But it doesn’t take connecting too many dots to understand that what is “too dangerous” in their minds includes America’s most popular types of firearms and magazines, and who is “too dangerous” includes any person who does not embrace their own politics and beliefs.
While describing recent changes to New York’s already draconian firearms laws, Hochul said (see video beginning at 11:30):
We also talked about, I mentioned, social media a number of times. I’ve called upon and working closely [sic] with our attorney general to identify what’s going on in social media. Those questions are now part of our background check, such as like in the old days you’d talk to someone’s neighbor. Now you can talk to their neighbors online and find out whether or not this person has been spouting, uh, you know, philosophies that indicate they have been radicalized, and that’s how we protect our citizens as well.
This plan, however, is problematic on its face, even before analyzing how it will be applied.
“[S]pouting philosophies,” even “radical” ones, is – of course – itself constitutionally protected conduct under the First Amendment. It cannot legitimately be suppressed by the government, nor can it legitimately be used by the government as a pretext to suppress other fundamental civil liberties like the right to keep and bear arms.
The Supreme Court has made clear that protected speech encompasses controversial expression. This includes such things as profanity, flag burning, nudity, criticism of U.S. military action during wartime, criticism of the government, and even advocacy of force or law violation, except where it is directed to inciting “imminent” lawless action and “is likely” to incite or produce such action.
Content on various social media platforms is already required to comply with the various platforms’ terms of service. As rules from private companies, these restrictions are not generally restrained by the First Amendment.
So when Kathy Hochul mentions scrutinizing social media posts to determine someone’s eligibility to exercise Second Amendment rights, she is referring to a subset of expression that is already curtailed and censored by the tech companies themselves.
Putting aside the fact that New York’s entire approach of using social media posts as the basis to deny fundamental rights is facially unconstitutional, what is left after private content moderation for these officials to consider radical?
Judging by the statements of Hochul’s fellow far-left politicians, it is likely to be common philosophies and ideas that don’t mirror their own.
As if on cue, Joe Biden himself provided a perfect example last week with a widely-criticized speech in which he broadly painted supporters of his chief political rival – himself a former president – as extremists and threats to democracy. The White House’s later attempt to contextualize Biden’s comments came off more as damage control than sincerity.
Yet leaders of Biden’s party had embraced his earlier comments, with Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) telling a television audience: “President Biden was right to sound the alarm this week about these continuing attacks on our constitutional order from the outside by Donald Trump and his movement.”
Meanwhile, Hoschul’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion was even more willing to marginalize political opponents on the issue of firearms specifically. During a 2014 radio interview, Democrat Andrew Cuomo said that “extreme conservatives” who are “pro-assault weapon” have “no place in the state of New York, because that's not who New Yorkers are.”
And, of course, the Democrat attorney general who Hochul is “is working closely with” on this new effort has herself referred to the NRA as a “terrorist organization.”
Meanwhile, the “updates” to New York’s firearms laws were themselves passed in open defiance of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated the state’s concealed carry licensing law, for – among other things – giving licensing officials too much discretion in administering the scheme.
New York’s new law gives them even more discretion, and – as the governor herself indicates – it will be used not just to suppress Second Amendment rights but to punish and chill political speech on the Internet as well.
Thanks to Kathy Hochul, Joe Biden, and their fellow travelers, gun owners have all the information they need to make sound choices at the ballot box this November.