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Court: California Can Share Gun-Owner Info with Researchers

A state appeals court ruled that California can continue providing personal information of gun owners to researchers to study gun violence, reversing last year’s decision by a lower court judge who said such data sharing violates privacy rights, the Associated Press reports.

In 2021, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing the state’s Department of Justice to share identifying information of more than 4 million gun owners in California with qualified research institutions to help them better study gun violence, accidents and suicides. The information — which the state collects with every firearm sale to perform background checks — include names, addresses, phone numbers, and any criminal records, among other things. Under the law, researchers can use the information and make their findings public, but can’t release any identifying information of gun owners.

Gun owners and organizations sued the state, arguing that the disclosure of their information violates their privacy rights. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal ruled to temporarily block the law last October. But on Friday, a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District found that the lower court failed to consider the state’s interest in studying and preventing gun violence in its analysis before halting the law. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said once the data sharing ruling is implemented, the state will resume providing this information to researchers.

The data-sharing law is among several gun measures in California that are being legally challenged. In October, a federal judge overturned the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons again, ruling that the law violates constitutional rights.


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