Want your guns to be legal? If so, watch what you write on social media.
That’s the gist of a new bill in the state House. The Illinois State Police would check the social media accounts of anyone applying for a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. If any posts show “any information that would disqualify the person,” the application would be denied.
That’s not all. It’d be the same thing with current FOID card holders. If state police find “any information that would disqualify the person,” a card would be revoked.
What is “any information that would disqualify the person”? Good question. The bill doesn’t say.
Sounds like a slippery slope. But maybe it’s a good thing. Not because of gun laws or gun owners or gun anything. But because of social media, especially Facebook.
I’d hoped to find out more regarding the bill, especially the “any information” bugaboo. But HB888's sponsor, freshman Rep. Daniel Didech (D-Buffalo Grove), didn’t return my request for comment. I went to his campaign website, which (aside from a super-handy tab to make donations) offers little beyond a photo of him, his wife and their dog — cute, all three, but not much help regarding his legislative goals or theory. Didech doesn't have an official legislative site yet.
But that’s OK. Though vague, the bill could clean up a good chunk of modern societal ills — yet probably not in the way the bill intends.
I have no quarrel with guns. And however you view firearms, if you want to go to social media and wage war on the topic, go ahead, if you dare. It’s one of those flashpoints that inevitably sparks fury that explodes like the cyber version of battle scenes from “Braveheart” or “300.” In other words, it ain’t pretty — or, for that matter, in any way civil.
Actually, that’s pretty much what you find with many conversations on Facebook or other platforms, even when an original post is innocuous. Say you post a photo of a brilliant sunrise. A few comments later — like a twisted, psychopathic version of the telephone game — the discussion will devolve into a screaming match (including seemingly normal friends, plus a few freaky strangers) reeking of bloodlust and questioning your motives, heritage, patriotism and everything else you hold dear.
It’s insane and horrible, and that’s what America has become — on social media, at least. Were we always like this? Did such coarseness and meanness always pulse under the surface of so many people? Or was online savagery somehow triggered and cultivated by social media? It’s a chicken-vs.-egg conundrum, but in the end we know the ultimate fallout: People act like jerks online.
So maybe that’s how the bill might help. I have no idea if the online-jerk factor is higher or lower between gun owners and non-owners. My guess is, both groups are the same, jerk-wise. Regardless, however this bill might define “any information that would disqualify the person,” in the end you’d have to be reasonable on social media — or, at least, hide your crazy — to have an FOID card.
Maybe there are First Amendment issues there. But until we get a 28th Amendment — “The right of citizens of the United States to peruse Facebook peacefully shall not be denied or abridged by jerks” — maybe America needs a little help to ebb the nastiness. Perhaps that’s how Illinois could revamp its sullied reputation, by becoming the first state to statutorily demand a little civility.
And why stop with guns? As the state with the most governmental entities, Illinois requires licenses for just about everything: driving, fishing, plumbing, asbestos cleaning, bird breeding, you name it. Most people need some sort of license to do what they do. So, with all those licenses, make the State Police do the same sort of social-media background checks.
It just might clean up society. Look at it this way: would you rather be able to legally drive a car? Or shoot your mouth off on Facebook?
Wait a minute. Don’t answer the question. Maybe I don’t want to know.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.