Ninth Circuit Upholds California Law Allowing Gun Owners’ Private Data to be Shared with Research Institutions in NRA-ILA-Supported Case

Gun Rights

On May 8, 2024, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law requiring California’s Department of Justice to provide firearm purchasers’ and CCW applicants’ information to research institutions.

In September 2021, California enacted AB 173, which allows the state to disclose highly sensitive information—including a gun owner’s name, social security number, address, place of birth, phone number, occupation, driver’s license or ID number, race, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, and the types of firearms they own—to universities and other research institutions. In January 2022, NRA filed suit to stop this attack on gun owners’ privacy.

After the district court ruled in favor of the state, the NRA appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit. This week, unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision.

The plaintiffs brought four claims in this case, all of which the court rejected:

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Second Amendment: The court held that there was no Second Amendment violation, because the plaintiffs may still purchase, keep, and carry firearms. Moreover, the court denied that the data-sharing has a chilling effect on Second Amendment rights because the law ensures strict data security precautions—despite the fact that a data breach occurred during the pendency of this case.

Fourteenth Amendment right to informational privacy: The court held that there was no Fourteenth Amendment violation, because the information at issue is not intimate personal information in which the plaintiffs have a reasonable expectation of nondisclosure.

Due Process: The plaintiffs argued that the law violates due process because it allows the state to share information that gun owners provided before the law went into effect—when those gun owners reasonably expected that only state agencies would use the information. The court rejected this argument because the law does not apply any new legal consequences to the conduct that occurred before the law’s implementation.

Preemption: The court held there was no violation of the federal Privacy Act (which requires that individuals be provided certain information when required to disclose their social security numbers) because the current CCW application does not request social security numbers. The court found it irrelevant that older CCW applications—which were shared with research institutions—requested social security numbers.

NRA-ILA is disappointed by the Ninth Circuit’s decision but will continue to fight against California’s relentless assault on Californians’ Second Amendment rights.

Please stay tuned to www.nraila.org for future updates on NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to defend your constitutional rights.

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