Rob Bonta views confiscated guns
Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta views confiscated guns with City Atty. Mara Elliott and Police Chief David Nisleit. Courtesy of Elliott’s office

Regardless of your political views or your opinion of the Second Amendment or what you think of gun owners, the recent violation of personal privacy by the California Attorney General should disturb and alarm you. 

You may have missed hearing about this because the news media didn’t prioritize its seriousness. Here’s what happened: In June, Rob Bonta‘s office made public a variety of personal information on hundreds of thousands of Californians who hold concealed weapons permits.

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On a publicly accessible government Firearms Dashboard Portal, the attorney general’s office leaked personal data of state residents who had applied for and were granted a concealed-carry weapons permit in California over the past decade, from 2011 to 2021.

This leak, egregious by any measure, included names, dates of birth, gender, race, driver’s license numbers, addresses and criminal histories, as well as records of gun shop sales, gun violence restraining orders, firearms safety certificates and a roster of certified handguns. 

Californians holding a CCW permit include security personal, law enforcement, rape victims, current and retired state and federal judges, retired law enforcement and prosecutors in both state and federal courts, as well as law-abiding gun owners.

To any CCW holder in the state, this data leak means the government has just put your personal safety at risk. The personal privacy of gun owners has been compromised because of California government officials who “accidentally” leaked easily downloadable information for the world to see.

We believe this leak of CCW holders was no accident. Somebody in the AG’s office authorized this leak.

It is infuriating that law-abiding gun owners, who have been complying with the law, have been called-out because some politicians and bureaucrats hate the Second Amendment. The victims are the Californians who are now in danger because they did everything right.

In response, San Diego County Gun Owners, a Second Amendment advocacy political action committee, has demanded an investigation by a third-party law enforcement agency to discover the extent of the damage done and, if any, the motivation behind the leak.

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Bonta and California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, SDCGO recommended the state publish all security controls and protocols relevant to information on gun owners and CCW holders. In addition, all personal information that is stored digitally should be completely disconnected from any pathway to the Internet.

Unfortunately, nobody in Sacramento has responded to SDCGO’s call for a third-party investigation.

Bonta, a Democrat running for election in November, is not interested in protecting the privacy rights of gun owners in California. Bonta’s past language of blaming law-abiding gun owners for society’s ills means he cannot be trusted to properly handle the necessary steps needed to make California CCW holders whole and safe again.

Most importantly, the aftermath of another response by SDCGO to the data leak should be even more frightening and alarming to any Californian concerned about their right to privacy.

SDCGO filed a California Public Records Act request seeking any and all messages relating to the data leak sent via email, text, mobile phone or other wireless device by staff with the AG’s office, Governor’s office and federal Department of Justice.

The records request is allowed under the act, a state law requiring all agencies to promptly release information to the public. It is modeled on the federal Freedom of Information Act. The state law declares that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right.”

To no one’s surprise, the SDCGO request was denied in a letter from Bonta dated Aug. 5.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the denial letter was Bonta’s reason for refusing to divulge the information. The letter stated, “The deliberative process privilege exempts from disclosure materials that would expose the decision-making process.”

Oh, now we understand. Those words imply that someone in the AG’s office actually made a decision to authorize the data leak and the leak was not an accident.

As a result, thousands of CCW holders in California now have a target on their backs.

All California citizens who desire their anonymity should be outraged about this reckless privacy beach of stunning proportions and how the AG’s office has circumvented the California Public Records Act.

The importance of the safety, security and privacy of Californians is not a gun issue or a Second Amendment issue. It isn’t Republican verses Democrat. It is a basic government, public safety and common decency issue.

It is a truism that justice delayed is justice denied. In the same way, disclosure denial is justice denied.

Be aware, California, that your government will erect roadblocks to prevent access to public records and exposure of the truth.

Confidence in government comes from transparency, not excessive secrecy, stall tactics, unlawful delays or pushing back against openness. Accountability without transparency is hollow. Law-abiding California gun owners are still waiting for answers.

Michael Schwartz is executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners.