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Court Rules California Can Share Gun Owners’ Information With Researchers

Anastasia Boushee
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A California appeals court has ruled that the state can continue to provide gun owners’ personal information to researchers as part of an effort to study gun violence — reversing a 2022 ruling from a lower court judge barring the practice for violating privacy rights.

The case came in response to a 2021 law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that allowed the state’s Department of Justice to share personal information of more than 4 million Californian gun owners with qualified research institutions to aid them in studying gun violence, accidents and suicides.

All of the information that is being shared is collected by the state during every firearm sale via background checks, including gun owners’ names, addresses, phone numbers and any criminal records.


Newsom’s law allowed researchers to use all of this information and make the findings of their studies public — though they cannot release any of the gun owners’ identifying information.

Numerous gun owners and pro-Second Amendment organizations immediately filed lawsuits against the state after Newsom signed the bill into law, arguing that disclosing their personal information violates their privacy rights.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal agreed with their arguments, ruling to temporarily block the law in October 2022.

However, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District reversed that ruling on Friday — finding that the lower court had failed to consider the state’s interest in studying and preventing gun violence.


In the ruling, Associate Justice Julia C. Kelety wrote that the case would be sent back to the lower court and the preliminary injunction would be reversed.

The decision came several months after a federal judge refused to block the law in a separate lawsuit.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) celebrated the appeals court’s decision in a statement, noting that once the law goes back into effect, the state will resume handing over gun owners’ personal information to researchers.

“The court’s decision is a victory in our ongoing efforts to prevent gun violence,” the statement read.

The law “serves the important goal of enabling research that supports informed policymaking aimed at reducing and preventing firearm violence,” Bonta claimed.

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