Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. File photo

 A San Diego federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a group of gun owners seeking to block a state law that allows their personal information to be shared with researchers studying gun violence.

The suit filed last year on behalf of five gun owners identified as John and Jane Does — three of whom are San Diego County residents — sought to block enforcement of AB 173, which amended state laws to allow disclosure of gun owners’ personal information to researchers at UC Davis and Stanford University.

The gun owners alleged the law deterred potential gun and ammunition buyers from freely exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns granted the California Attorney General’s Office’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.

In his ruling, Burns wrote that the state already collects information on gun buyers and concealed carry weapon permit applicants, and that the sharing of information outlined in AB 173 was “merely a limited extension” of those measures.

The judge also took note of the plaintiffs’ concerns that the researchers’ database could be hacked, or that researchers might decide to publicly disclose the personal info, exposing gun owners to harassment or threats. Burns referenced a June 2022 incident in which the personal information of around 200,000 Californians was mistakenly published in conjunction with the launch of the Department of Justice’s Firearms Dashboard, which provides individuals’ criminal history and firearms data to law enforcement agencies.

Burns noted that none of the exposed data came from the two research institutions at issue, and that the “speculative possibility of hacking or insider malfeasance” has not prevented gun owners in the past from purchasing weapons and providing their information to the state of California.

“The limited disclosure of private information for research purposes permitted by AB 173 doesn’t expose Plaintiffs to any novel risks or impose new burdens on them,” Burns wrote.

Burns gave the gun owners until Feb. 10 to file an amended complaint.

–City News Service


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Ellen Bullock