California gun-rights advocates were dealt a setback in federal court on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns denied a request from gun owners for a temporary restraining order to block the recently signed state law allowing their personal information to be shared with academic research centers. In his ruling, Burns determined that the gun owners had not shown the law created sufficient harm to warrant an emergency restraining order.
The ruling is a blow to the privacy concerns of gun owners throughout the state. As a result, California officials can continue freely sharing gun owners’ personal information while the legal challenge to the law continues to be fought in court. In his brief responding to the effort to block the law, Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) confirmed that data was already being shared with multiple universities, including the University of California and Stanford.
AB 173, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) last September, amended portions of California’s gun laws to direct 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.”
Gun rights groups immediately decried the law, and its passage prompted a lawsuit from the NRA challenging its legality.
“The United States Constitution, the California Constitution, and California statutory law protect Plaintiffs’ right to privacy in the Personal Information that they provided to the Cal DOJ as a condition to Plaintiffs’ lawful exercise of their Second Amendment rights,” the group said in the suit. “Plaintiffs disclosed their Personal Information in reliance on the government’s assurance that their information would be used only for law enforcement purposes.”
In a statement on the suit, NRA-ILA Executive Director Jason Ouimet questioned the security of gun owners’ data in the hands of research institutions.
“This information is a person’s identity,” he said. “And it’s being handed over to organizations that have no duty to safeguard it. This will do nothing to prevent crime — it will only serve to put law-abiding gun owners at risk.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office previously told The Reload that the AG was undeterred by the legal challenge to AB 173.
“The Attorney General will continue to enforce and defend the state’s laws, including AB 173, and its provisions that seek to improve public safety by providing research institutions with the data they need to study gun violence in order to help us prevent it,” the office said.
Proceedings in the suit against the law will next be held at a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for March 8.