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Gun owners’ private info to be given to college researchers under new CA law

Guns for sale at a store. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/TNS)
September 27, 2021

A new California law signed on Thursday requires the state’s Department of Justice to provide research institutions with gun owners’ personal identifying information from a previously-established state registry “for the study of the prevention of violence.”

According to the legislation, a newly established research center at the University of California Davis, as well as “any other nonprofit bona fide research institution accredited by the United States Department of Education,” will be given access to gun owners’ private information, including names, addresses, birthplaces, phone numbers, occupations, sexes, descriptions, and all legal names and aliases.

“This bill would name the center for research into firearm-related violence the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis,” the legislation states. “The bill would generally require that the information above be made available to the center and researchers affiliated with the center, and, at the department’s discretion, to any other nonprofit bona fide research institution accredited by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, as specified, for the study of the prevention of violence.”

Earlier this month, Roy M. Griffith Jr. of the California Rifle & Pistol Association urged California Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto the bill, arguing it was a violation of privacy.

“The identities and confidential personal information of individuals should only be provided by DOJ or other state entities to law enforcement agencies when conducting an investigation that has a specific need for it. No other entity – not even research institutions – has sufficient justification to have access to an individual’s private information,” Griffith wrote in a letter to the governor.

Griffith also pointed out that the California constitution specifically protects the right to privacy. Article I, Section I states, “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

“We are in support of the study and research of illegal firearm-related crime to prevent violence, however this can be done without violating the constitutional rights of all Californians! We are strongly opposed to the release and use of the personal information of law-abiding citizens who legally purchase ammunition, and/or firearms parts being unnecessarily compromised to do so,” he added.

The new law also expands California’s gun registry under Penal Code Section 11106 to include copies of fingerprints.

“California has been a leader in responding to this continuing [gun violence] crisis. However, although rates of fatal firearm violence in California are well below average for the 50 states, they are not low enough,” the State Legislature claimed. “Too little is known about firearm violence and its prevention. This is in substantial part because too little research has been done. The need for more research and more sophisticated research has repeatedly been emphasized.”

“California’s uniquely rich data related to firearm violence have made possible important, timely, policy-relevant research that cannot be conducted elsewhere,” it continued.