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Judge denies request to block law sharing info with gun violence researchers

A handgun sits on a table inside a San Diego County gun shop, Sept. 5, 2018.
Roland Lizarondo
A close-up of a gun on Oct. 30, 2020.

A San Diego federal judge has denied a request from gun owners for a temporary restraining order to block a newly signed state law that allows their personal information to be shared with a research center studying gun violence.

The suit filed earlier this month by the National Rifle Association on behalf of five gun owners identified as John and Jane Does — three of whom are San Diego County residents — seeks to block enforcement of AB 173, which amended state laws to allow disclosure of gun owners' personal information to the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis.

The research center also has discretion to make the information available "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."


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According to the law, the identifying information may "only be provided for research or statistical activities" and any reports utilizing the information cannot identify specific people.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 173 into law in September.

U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns denied the temporary restraining order request, and noted in a written ruling that researchers receiving the information "are barred from public dissemination of personal information, and must submit any research based on the data to DOJ for pre-publication review to ensure that the manuscripts don't contain any information identifying specific individuals."

Burns also said the gun owners had not shown that AB 173 would cause immediate harm necessary for an emergency measure such as a temporary restraining order.


The plaintiffs may still file for a preliminary injunction in the case. That motion will be heard in Burns' court on March 8.

The lawsuit, which names California Attorney General Rob Bonta as the sole defendant, alleges the plaintiffs "disclosed their personal information in reliance on the government's assurance that their information would only be used for law enforcement purposes," and claims that disclosure of their information will subject the plaintiffs to "unwanted public attention, harassment, threats and physical violence by individuals and groups including persons in the community who are hostile to guns and gun owners."

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The lawsuit alleges that AB 173 does not have an adequate enforcement mechanism in place to ensure gun owners' confidentiality once their information is shared with the research center.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit's filing, NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Jason Ouimet said gun owners' information is "being handed over to organizations that have no duty to safeguard it. This will do nothing to prevent crime — it will only serve to put law-abiding gun owners at risk."

A California Attorney General's representative said earlier this month that AG Rob Bonta's office "will continue to enforce and defend the state's laws, including AB 173, and its provisions that seek to improve public safety by providing research institutions with the data they need to study gun violence in order to help us prevent it."

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