Court Upholds California Law Allowing Gun Owner Information Sharing

California has long been an inhospitable state for citizens interested in exercising their Second Amendment rights.

One recent example involves a man whose concealed-carry permit was temporarily suspended after he used his firearm to protect his family from armed home intruders.

On a broader scale, California officials have pushed for the authority to share personal information regarding gun owners statewide in an ostensible effort to study and curb gun violence. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law in 2021 that allowed the state’s Justice Department to distribute data about millions of firearms owners with researchers at a host of organizations.

Although the measure faced a roadblock last year when a court determined that it violated the privacy rights of gun owners, an appeals court recently determined that officials could resume disseminating personal information, including the names, addresses, phone numbers, and criminal histories of California gun owners.

The three-judge panel determined that the lower court’s preliminary injunction should be reversed, prompting a celebratory response from state Attorney General Rob Bonta, who called the decision “a victory in our ongoing efforts to prevent gun violence.”

It was unclear from initial reports whether gun-rights groups are planning additional challenges to the law, but Second Amendment advocates spoke out firmly against the bill as it headed to Newsom’s desk.

“The identities and confidential personal information of individuals should only be provided by DOJ or other state entities to law enforcement agencies when conducting an investigation that has a specific need for it,” wrote California Rifle & Pistol Association legislative director Roy M. Griffith Jr. in a letter to the governor. “No other entity — not even research institutions — has sufficient justification to have access to an individual’s private information.”

On the other side of the debate are activists like Garen Wintemute of the California Firearm Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis, who echoed Bonta’s praise for the appeals court ruling.

“The court’s decision is an important victory for science,” he said. “For more than 30 years, researchers at UC Davis and elsewhere have used the data in question to conduct vital research that simply couldn’t be done anywhere else. We’re glad to be able to return to that important work, which will improve health and safety here in California and across the country.”