Judge dismisses San Diego gun owners’ lawsuit challenging state’s collection of their personal data

Gun owners say a law that allows the state to collect and share data on gun owners violates the 2nd Amendment.

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge in San Diego on Thursday, January 12, shot down a lawsuit filed by gun owners who object to the state using their personal information for research purposes.

On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit saying the state’s use of personal information does nothing to prevent them from owning guns.

The four gun owners, which include a firearm instructor, an Air Force veteran, a retired deputy sheriff, and a retired corrections officer, sued California Attorney General Rob Bonta in January 2022 over a newly passed state law that allowed the state to collect and share gun owners’ personal information with research institutions for “bona fide” research purposes. The research, according to Assembly Bill 173, is crucial to preventing gun violence. 

However, the four gun owners, as well as gun rights groups, cried foul, saying the law violated their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms as well as their 14th Amendment right to privacy.

One of the issues,reads the January 2022 complaint, was that the personal information could be hacked

Among the concerns of gun owners was the possibility that their data, as well as the data of millions of other gun owners across the state, could be breached and their identities and personal information fall into the hands of hackers. 

That, coincidentally, was the case just three months after the lawsuit was filed when a data breach exposed the identities of hundreds of thousands of gun owners in California. And while the data breach was not the fault of the universities that conducted the research, gun owners used the breach as evidence that the collection and distribution of personal data put them at risk.

San Diego Federal Judge Larry Burns disagreed

“Plaintiffs haven’t argued—nor could they—that the mere collection of such information violates their Second Amendment rights by improperly subjecting them to the threat of hacking. Nor have they presented evidence that there is any greater threat that data will be hacked from the research organizations than from the Department of Justice itself.”

As for privacy concerns, Judge Burns said sharing personal data with the state and research agencies is no different than sharing personal data with any organization.

“The nature of the information contained in the records—biographical information that is generally available in many other public registries—is likewise unremarkable,” wrote Burns in the January 12 ruling.

The plaintiffs have an opportunity to amend their legal argument. If they choose not to then the case is dismissed. 

James Price

James Price