California Governor Gavin Newsom, having survived his recall election, has taken the next step in his agenda on gun control. He signed California Assembly Bill 173 into law, amending the California Penal Code Section 11106 to include this new authorization to release personally identifiable information about every California gun owner to researchers.
Here’s the exact text:
(d) All information collected pursuant to this section shall be maintained by the department and shall be available to researchers affiliated with the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis for academic and policy research purposes upon proper request and following approval by the center’s governing institutional review board when required. At the department’s discretion, and subject to Section 14240, information collected pursuant to this section may be provided to any other nonprofit bona fide research institution accredited by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for the study of the prevention of violence and following approval by the institution’s governing institutional review board or human subjects committee when required. Material identifying individuals shall only be provided for research or statistical activities and shall not be transferred, revealed, or used for purposes other than research or statistical activities, and reports or publications derived therefrom shall not identify specific individuals. Reasonable costs to the department associated with the department’s processing of such data may be billed to the researcher. If a request for data or letter of support for research using the data is denied, the department shall provide a written statement of the specific reasons for the denial.
Read and re-read that. It means if you have any firearms-related information collected by the California Department of Justice, it’s fair game — along with your name and address — to any bona fide research institution.
Unlike consumer privacy laws, of which California has some of the most restrictive in the nation, there is no provision in this new law for Californians to opt out of this form of privacy intrusion. It seems that gun ownership is not a protected right.
One could be indignant about it, but the reality is that this is now California law. It was enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor.
I’m a gun owner. I’m an active shooting competitor. I’m a proponent of my hobby. I’m a California firearms instructor, and the State of California already accidentally released all my information to a news agency once, along with the identity of every other firearms instructor in the state.
Yes, of course I understand the primary purpose of yet another gut and fill assembly bill rushed into law at the behest of well-placed lobbyists is undoubtedly to facilitate anti-gun research hoping to prove that Californians shouldn’t own guns, because even the most stringent laws in the country are simply not enough to make people “safe.”
I’m of a mind to go the other way and see this as an opportunity for pro-gun research to begin to create data-driven policy changes that finally figure out how guns can be safer for individuals and help promote less crime-prone environments — by using this very same research data that California says is not legally available to conduct research on both sides of the political coin.
I’ve always wanted to check out my theories about the distribution of firearms across geographic and demographic lines, overlaying the reach of proper firearms training, the availability and affordability of opportunities to properly train, and the juxtaposition of crime statistics, including mapping, to see how more effective use of guns in the hands of well-trained citizens can reduce crime, mitigate the cost of law enforcement in an era where the tenets of policing are being redefined, and reduce prejudicial attitudes stemming from myths that exist between owners and non-owners of firearms.
I could design all sorts of studies that a 501(c3) could sponsor an academic institution to study and publish peer-reviewed results about. Some would even produce R-squared correlations that have strong indications that would hold up in long-term analyses for changing public policy.
And why not? Gavin Newsom just made it legal for all that data needed to be available to legitimate researchers looking for substantive solutions to gun violence.
Be careful of what you ask for, Governor. You just might get real answers.