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Judge Blocks California Law Requiring Release of Gun Owners’ Personal Info

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The state of California cannot mandate the public release of personal information on gun owners, according to a judge’s ruling late last week.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal in San Diego County issued an injunction against California’s Assembly Bill 173, ruling that by allowing the law to remain in effect while it was being challenged in court unconstitutionally risks the privacy rights of California gun owners.

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“Accordingly, plaintiffs have shown that the balance of harms weighs in favor of issuing the injunction,” she noted in her order.

The Reload reports:

The injunction represents a win for gun-rights advocates in their fight against the state’s attempts to share gun owners’ identifying information for outside research. The state already collects extensive data on gun and ammunition purchases–including an ammo registry. California’s practices make it an outlier, but one with the potential to be copied by other blue states seeking tighter gun laws. The successful injunction suggests advocates may be successful in permanently stopping the state from sharing that data with non-law enforcement entities and quash the potential for other states to follow California’s lead.

Assembly Bill 173, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) last September, directed the Attorney General to disclose personal information on gun purchasers to the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis. The information includes details such as the buyer’s name, address, date of birth, what they purchased, when and where they bought it, and more. It also authorized the center to share the information with any other “bona fide research institution.”

Bacal’s injunction against AB 173 is not the first time California officials have become mired in controversy regarding the personal information of gun owners. In June, The Reload reported exclusively that the California Department of Justice “inadvertently” exposed the names, addresses, dates of birth, racial composition, and permit classifications of all the state’s concealed carry permit holders while rolling out its 2022 Firearms Dashboard Portal.

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The information was available for public download for many hours before officials finally took it offline. Since then, California officials have offered those affected by the leak credit monitoring. Bacal cited that leak as one example of how state gun owners could be harmed if AB 173 remained in effect.

“Defendant responds plaintiffs cannot establish irreparable harm because the personal identifying information has already been shared with researchers as recently as November of 2021,” she wrote. “Yet this does not account for the potential ongoing and future harms that could occur by continuous use of the information. Furthermore, and while this motion has been pending, a massive data breach reportedly occurred that leaked personal identifying information from the firearm databases for concealed carry applicants in or about June of 2022.”

Several firearms groups in the state filed suit in January, alleging unconstitutional violations of gun owners’ privacy.

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“The California government has proven time and time again that it can’t be trusted with the private personal information of its residents,” Bill Sack, Firearms Policy Coalition Director of Legal Operations, noted in a press release. “Today’s ruling reinforces what FPC has been arguing all along; that you needn’t be forced to open your front door to immoral government intrusion in order to exercise your fundamental rights.”

In July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new gun measure sent to him by the state’s Democratic supermajority legislature that is already considered likely to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The measure is modeled after the state of Texas’ so-called abortion “heartbeat” law.

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SB-1327 states that “[a]ny person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state, may bring a civil action against any person” who knowingly violates California gun law banning assault weapons or firearm parts, The Daily Wire reported.

Someone can also be sued who “[k]nowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” a violation of the law, “regardless of whether the person knew or should have known that the person aided or abetted would be violating [it],” or “[k]nowingly commits an act with the intent to engage in the conduct described,” the measure says.

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