Lawsuit filed over California AG office's leak of gun owner information

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

We still don’t have any explanation from Attorney General Rob Bonta about how and why his office included links to a massive treasure trove of personal information about gun owners in a public portal that was “only” supposed to give the public access to the names and counties of concealed handgun permitees, despite the fact that the leak occurred almost a month ago.

Now a California attorney who represents four women who are among the hundreds of thousands of Californians exposed by the leak is suing Bonta’s office, accusing the AG of violating the Second Amendment rights of his clients along with their right to privacy, which is enshrined in California state law. Brian Hannemann says his clients are just “regular people who want to protect their families” but have now been put at risk because of the actions of the Attorney General’s office.

News of the dashboard data leak has been jarring to permit holders and applicants, including Hannemann’s clients.

“None of them would have gotten CCWs if they had known this was going to happen,” he said.

Among the information posted were the full name, date of birth, address, gender, race and CCW license number. In some cases, a driver’s license number was also available.

The state dashboard was taken offline June 28 and remains offline as of July 18.

… Hannemann, a CCW permit-holder himself, says the leak shows that having a single master database of this information — rather than having it be at the county level, as sheriff’s departments are the agencies that issue the permits in the state — is an inherently bad idea.

(Hannemann, and San Diego attorney Marc Mabile, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.)

He wants the state to allow permit-applicants to list a P.O. Box for their address.

“Now, if the information somehow leaks, criminals will know where we live,” he said. “We want all CCW holders to be treated like police officers, so their data will be private.”

That would be a good start, though the bigger issue is, as Hannemann indicated, the fact that the Attorney General’s office is collecting and collating all of this information in the first place. As Hannemann’s lawsuit points out, the information exposed to the public included far more than names and addresses. From the lawsuit:

The Registry included information collected from the Assault Weapon Registry, Dealer Record of Sale, Firearm Certification System, and Gun Violence Restraining Order information process and compilation:

“As of now the exposed data appears to include: full name, date of birth, address, gender, race, CCW number, California information Index number, other government issued identifiers… [and] drivers license numbers.”

Dealer Record of Sale documents contain an individual’s Social Security number as well as make, model, and serial number of firearms.

This list, which was apparently online for almost 24 hours and downloaded and accessed who knows how many times, is not only a gift to identity thieves, but a shopping list for criminals looking to steal firearms. Bonta’s office has yet to confirm that anyone actually accessed this information, but there are plenty of screenshots showing at least some of the data, and California Rifle & Pistol Association president Chuck Michel, whose law firm is also considering litigation, has previously told Bearing Arms that there’s no doubt in his mind that not only was this confidential information accessed, but that it’s been disseminated online as well.

As of now the data portal itself remains offline, and neither Bonta or his press office are saying much about their internal investigation into the data leak. Hannemann is hoping that the discovery process of his new lawsuit will lead to us learning more about why this leak happened, why it took nearly a day for the information to be pulled down, other unresolved questions. With Bonta being less than forthcoming throughout this entire ordeal it may very well come down to a court compelling the AG to disclose these facts before we have a chance to learn the answers.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET