California Appeals Court Allows Sharing Gun Owners’ Data

A state appeals court has overturned a lower court decision, allowing California to continue sharing personal information of gun owners with researchers for the study of gun violence. The lower court judge’s ruling from last year, which deemed such data sharing a violation of privacy rights, has been reversed.

In 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) endorsed legislation permitting California’s Department of Justice to share identifying details of over 4 million gun owners with qualified research institutions.

The aim was to enhance the study of gun violence, accidents and suicides. The information collected by the state during each firearm sale for background checks encompasses names, addresses, phone numbers and criminal records, among other data.

Researchers are allowed to utilize the information for public findings but are prohibited from disclosing any identifying information about gun owners under the law.

Reacting to this, gun owners and organizations filed a lawsuit against the state, contending that the release of their information infringes on their privacy rights. In October of last year, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal issued a temporary injunction, blocking the enforcement of the law.

However, on Friday, a three-judge panel from the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District determined that the lower court overlooked the state’s interest in studying and preventing gun violence in its assessment before pausing the law. In the ruling, Associate Justice Julia C. Kelety instructed that the case be returned to the lower court and emphasized the need to overturn the preliminary injunction.

Attorneys representing the gun owners and firearms groups in the lawsuit against the state did not promptly respond to calls and an email seeking commentary, according the Associated Press.

The law facilitating data sharing is one of numerous gun-related measures in California facing legal challenges. Last October, a federal judge once more overturned the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, asserting that the law infringes on constitutional rights.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta stated that upon the implementation of the data-sharing ruling, the state will resume furnishing gun owners’ personal information to researchers.

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