National gun-rights groups are speaking out against a new California law mandating the release of gun owners’ personal information.
AB 173 was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) last month. It directs the California DOJ to disclose all the information the state collects about firearm and ammunition purchasers, including details such as their name and address, to accredited gun violence research institutions.
“This is what happens when the government collects data on gun owners and why we oppose laws that allow this to happen,” Alan Gottlieb, Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), told The Reload.
The extent to which the law calls for the release of private personal information is notable in a state with multiple legal protections for its residents’ privacy. The state constitution includes a guaranteed right to privacy, and recent laws like the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) provide further protections against the unauthorized disclosure of consumer data collected by businesses in California. However, the law notably does not apply to government agencies and non-profit organizations.
Gottlieb said SAF is looking into the possibility of a legal challenge against the new law.
“Our legal team is looking at this as a possible lawsuit,” he said. “To have standing, we need to find plaintiffs who can show that their personal information has been misused, and they can prove damages. They should contact us if they want to be part of this lawsuit.”
But the task could prove to be complicated. Gun owners won’t be notified when their personal information is shared with researchers. And unless their private information leaks, it could be difficult to prove damages.
The National Rifle Association slammed the legislation as a politically motivated invasion of privacy.
“This legislation creates grave privacy concerns, as well as concerns that this information could be provided to groups that create biased ‘research’ to push gun control policies without actually researching root causes of violence,” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said upon the bill’s passage.
California is one of only six states plus the District of Columbia that requires registration of some or all firearms. It is also one of only eleven states that require sellers to report firearm sales information identifying the purchaser and firearm purchased to law enforcement. Because of these laws, gun owners’ information is readily available to be shared with academic researchers.