Posting disagreeable content on Facebook isn’t exactly shouting "fire" in a crowded theater, but what you say on social media could become part of the background check before you get a firearm owner’s identification card in Illinois, or reason to revoke one you already have.
State Reps. Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove and Jonathan Carroll of Northbook, both Democrats, have proposed a bill that would allow the state to do just that.
People who own or carry firearms, stun guns, tasers or possess ammunition in Illinois are required to have a specific identification card issued by the state. It carries your photograph, your height, weight and address, your birthday, hair color and eye color. It also assigns your card a specific number. The card, issued by the state police, does not allow you to unlawfully carry a gun, nor is it the same as a concealed carry permit.
When you apply for a FOID, you have to answer a questionnaire that asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony, whether you are addicted to narcotics, whether you’ve been treated in a mental institution or are “intellectually disabled." Other questions ask about convictions of some specific crimes, whether you are an illegal alien, whether you're named on a current order of protection that prohibits firearms.
Whether you should have to provide access to social media accounts is another question.
A synopsis of the proposal says state police would “conduct a search of the purchasers' social media accounts available to the public to determine if there is any information that would disqualify the person from obtaining or require revocation of a currently valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card. Provides that each applicant for a Firearm Owner's Identification Card shall furnish to the Department of State Police a list of every social media account."
Social media allows us to share ideas, thoughts, photos and videos. What we share may not be “politically correct” and may be offensive. The curators of the various social media venues have their own rules for what is permissible content. But how we individually interpret our right of free speech, by what we post on social media, should not be used to judge our right to a state-issued ID card.
An Associated Press story from last February, shortly after the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead, delved into recent U.S. mass killings to determine whether the killers had legally obtained their weapons. Indeed, most had the state required permits to purchase weapons, although some hadn’t provided full information about their criminal background or mental history.
The vast, vast majority of firearm owners are law-abiding people who enjoy hunting, trap shooting or collecting. It takes only one bad apple to ruin the barrel, but using someone’s social media posts to help determine their ability to own a firearm reaches too far into our right to free speech while trying to uphold our right to bear arms.