Court Says Screw Gun Owner Privacy in California

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

California isn’t likely to be mistaken for a pro-gun state anytime soon. The only way they’ll end up even looking pro-gun is if they’re dragged kicking and screaming by the courts.

Yet it’s unlikely to be a California court that does the dragging.

Especially as this is a state that figures exercising your right to keep and bear arms means you essentially forfeit your right to privacy. They wanted to share gun owner data with researchers, regardless of how anyone with a lawfully owned gun felt about it.

Now, the courts are backing them up on it.

California can continue to provide identifying information about gun owners to a research center, a state appeals court ruled, discarding a preliminary injunction favored by gun rights groups because the trial court didn’t consider the state’s interest in researching gun violence.

Gun rights groups didn’t effectively rebut California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s evidence about the public health impacts of gun violence or the need to conduct empirical research about gun policies in trial court, the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District ruled Friday. Because the trial court didn’t incorporate the state’s established interest into its analysis, it didn’t fulfill the second prong of a two-part test for privacy claims, Associate Justice Julia C. Kelety wrote in the unpublished opinion.

The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to enter an order denying the preliminary injunction.

State law requires that California keeps records of nearly all handgun and ammunition transfers. The legislature directed the Regents of the University of California in 2016 to create a Firearm Violence Research Center, and amended state law in following years to ensure the state provides all necessary data, including identifying information, to the center upon request.

Basically, the argument is that the state’s interest here outweighs privacy concerns, but that’s a big issue for me.

It would be one thing if the only things provided were anonymized data, thus allowing the researchers to look at the information with no ability to identify who the gun owners actually were. That’s especially true in an anti-gun state like California where someone who goes against that particular grain might well find themselves ostracized or demonized by neighbors and family.

More than that, though, is the fact that it’s not anyone else’s business in the best of environments.

California, however, has a problem with gun owner privacy anyway. They’re not good at protecting it even when they try, so it’s unlikely they’d do much to protected it when they don’t want to. Last year the AG’s office released details of hundreds of thousands of concealed carry holders; supposedly an inadvertent accident on the part of a CalDOJ staffer and not an intentional effort to doxx gun owners, at least if you believe Attorney General Rob Bonta.

In this case, though, they don’t even want to protect the privacy of Californians exercising their Second Amendment rights.

See, this idea that the state’s interest outweighs people’s privacy is something literally everyone should be concerned about. Our privacy matters. Even if it’s not specifically enshrined in the US Constitution doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or it isn’t important.

The state’s interests will always be determined by the state to matter more than our rights. A determination like this sets a dangerous precedent and shouldn’t be encouraged. My hope is that additional challenges come and, in time, this nonsense is struck down.

Gun owners shouldn’t have to fear their states or their nations, yet California has taken a step that should make everyone there fearful.