The Corner

American Police: Buy a Gun and Give Up Your Privacy Rights

Per The Truth About Guns:

The photo above shows an application for a pistol permit as used by the Watervliet, New York police department. It comes to us from “Mazz,” a member of the nyfirearms.com forum [registration required]. As you can see the app asks applicants for their “Facebook & Password.” Considering the document’s homemade look and the absurdity of the request, I called the Watervliet PD for confirmation and clarification. I got Chief Ron Boisvert . . .

The Chief told TTAG that the sheet shouldn’t have been in the application packet – and won’t be in future. “It’s for internal use only,” he said.

Yes, well, the Chief said he uses the form to gather the applicant’s Facebook deets during a face-to-face interview. Why make note of the password? “We don’t,” he insisted. “We ask the applicant to log on to Facebook in front of us.” So the Chief scrolls through the applicant’s Facebook page searching for . . . ?

“Pages they’re looked at, friends – anything that reflects on the character of the applicant.” I pointed out that there’s a big difference [in terms of privacy] between viewing a Facebook page as a friend and viewing it as the owner. The Chief wasn’t bothered by the distinction.

A few moments ago, I noted a story from Britain, in which country police may now enter a firearms owner’s house without either advance notice or a specific warrant. This, I suggested, was tantamount to saying, “if you wish you wish to exercise your right to keep and bear arms you must give up your right to privacy. Or, to put this into an American context, if you wish to enjoy the Second Amendment, you are required to forfeit the Fourth.”

The above intrusion is not quite as bad as that, certainly. But it’s still grotesque. It is one thing for the state to check that you haven’t been convicted of any crimes; it is quite another for a police officer to make the exercise of a basic right contingent upon his going through your most personal information and making a subjective judgment. After all, if we’re going outside of hard facts, why, one wonders, would we limit it to Facebook? Why not require applicants to list which songs or movies or books they like, who they tend to vote for in local and general elections, and where they go to church?

In both cases, the logic is similar: “If you wish to exercise one basic right, you can kiss goodbye to another.” As the author observes, “there’s a big difference [in terms of privacy] between viewing a Facebook page as a friend and viewing it as the owner.” That “the Chief wasn’t bothered by the distinction” is a worrying sign indeed.

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