2A groups' assault on California's non-privacy law

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

If the 14th Amendment protects privacy in a way that has had people screaming “My body, my choice” for decades, then it has to apply here (as it should in many other areas that are relevant to current affairs). The right to privacy is something all citizens are supposed to be afforded. California truly has been on the crazy train for some time now, with things getting spicier and spicier every time we turn on the news. Late last year the Governor of California signed Assembly Bill No. 173, and it’s a wicked, nasty, dirty, and naughty law.

What does AB-173 do? The short story is the law allows for gun owners’ private information to be shared with “research” organizations. Lock-step with everything California, we’re going to just trust that this data will be protected and used for real altruistic purposes.

The bill would generally require that the information above be made available to the center and researchers affiliated with the center, and, at the department’s discretion, to any other nonprofit bona fide research institution accredited by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, as specified, for the study of the prevention of violence.

This law certainly doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. It didn’t make some of the largest Second Amendment organizations happy either, so they’ve gone to the mattresses with California again. On January 28, 2022 Brandeis v. Bonta was filed.

The Second Amendment Foundation today filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court against California Attorney General Rob Bonta, challenging the constitutionality of a recently-enacted section of the state Penal Code requiring the state Department of Justice to share private information on millions of gun owners in the state, with the California Firearm Violence Research Center and others.

Joining SAF in this action are the Firearms Policy Coalition, California Gun Rights Foundation, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, Orange County Gun Owners PAC, Inland Empire Gun Owners PAC and Doe Brandeis, a private citizen. They are represented by attorneys Bradley A. Benbrook and Stephen M. Duvernay with the Benbrook Law Group, PC in Sacramento. The lawsuit is known as Brandeis v. Bonta.

The suit makes about as commonsense arguments that could possibly be made. How this is not cut and dry, that is, ended up as a law in the first place, is beyond me. The creation of this law just reeks with the same style of racketeering tactics used in New York and New Jersey.

From the complaint:

1. Plaintiffs bring this suit to challenge the constitutionality of recently-enacted Penal Code sections 11106(d) and 30352(b)(2), which for the first time require the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to share extensive personal identifying information of millions of California gun owners with the California Firearm Violence Research Center for non-law enforcement purposes. It also opens the door for this data to be shared with countless other “researchers.” See Assem. Bill 173 (2021-2022 Reg. Sess.).

2. The disclosure of such personal information violates the right to privacy protected by the California Constitution. All purchasers of firearms in California must provide personal information at the time of the transaction, and that data is stored in DOJ’s Automated Firearms System (“AFS”). AFS thus houses detailed personal information about millions of Californians, including their fingerprints, home addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license information, and other identifying information – all of this along with comprehensive firearm and ammunition purchase and transfer history.

The Second Amendment has been under attack for more than many decades, dating back to post reparation America. The progressive shift in politics in the early and mid Twentieth Century has conflated and garbled the core of what the Second Amendment stands for. It took the 2008 and 2010 Heller and McDonald rulings from the Supreme Court to set the record straight on who “the people” are, and that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. It’s clearly clicked on some level with California, because this new law goes after individuals in a private and intimate way.

From a press release issued by the Second Amendment Foundation:

The lawsuit contends disclosure of personal information about California gun owners under provisions of Assembly Bill 173, passed by the Assembly last year, violates their privacy rights, which are specifically protected by the state constitution. This information sharing also violates provisions of Proposition 63, the ammunition background check measure passed by voters back in 2016, which specified that personal information was to remain confidential, and shared “only for law enforcement purposes.”

“This is clearly an attempt violate the law, and the constitutional privacy rights of California gun owners for reasons we could only begin to imagine,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This proves once again that gun prohibitionists are willing to trample on laws they previously passed with a new law that violates the rights of gun owners for the alleged purpose of so-called ‘research,’ the nature of which seems dubious at best.

“In their zeal to treat California gun owners as second- or even third-class citizens, anti-gunners in Sacramento forget that those citizens have rights including the right to privacy,” Gottlieb added. “More than 4 California million gun owners have a reasonable expectation that their personal information is protected by the law and the state constitution. We will not stand idly by while their privacy is violated under the guise of research that has nothing at all to do with law enforcement.”

Thankfully these organizations have stepped up to take California behind the woodshed on this most egregious infringement of so many civil rights. It’s been awhile, but I’ve not seen so much “wrong” piled up in one spot. If history has not taught us anything at all, this provision in the law is a clear attempt to create Nazi-like lists, finger a “bad guy” (that will be doxed), and eventually disarm the population. This law is a further codification in statute the bigotry against certain classes of persons. Since this is California and the 9th circuit, we’ll all have to buckle up for this rollercoaster ride, but none-the-less, we’ll be following the details of this case and report back with any new revelations. Let’s just hope no one’s information has been leaked out yet and the damage isn’t already done!