Guns collected by police
The pile of guns collected on Saturday. Courtesy San Diego Police

 A group of gun owners have filed a lawsuit in San Diego federal court seeking to block the California Department of Justice from enforcing a newly signed state law that allows gun owners’ personal information collected during gun and ammo purchases to be shared with a research center studying gun violence.

The suit filed Wednesday by five plaintiffs identified as John and Jane Does — three of whom are San Diego County residents — seeks to block enforcement of AB 173, which amended state gun laws to allow disclosure of gun purchasers’ 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 bonafide 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.”

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.

The lawsuit 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.”

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

A spokesperson with the California Attorney General’s Office said the office had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but said in a statement, “the Attorney General 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.”

–City News Service