Attorney General Bonta Secures Court Decision Allowing Vital Data Sharing with Gun Violence Researchers

Monday, November 20, 2023
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California appellate court rejects trial court decision blocking implementation of AB 173

 SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced securing a court decision by the California Court of Appeal allowing the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to continue sharing data with gun violence researchers to better direct strategies to prevent gun violence.  The order allows DOJ to provide the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center and other qualified researchers with data under Assembly Bill 173 (AB 173) necessary to conduct research evaluating the leading causes and impacts of gun violence and effective responses.

“The court’s decision is a victory in our ongoing efforts to prevent gun violence,” said Attorney General Bonta. “AB 173’s information-sharing serves the important goal of enabling research that supports informed policymaking aimed at reducing and preventing firearm violence. Research and data are vital in our efforts to prevent gun violence in California and provide a clear path to help us save lives.”

Since the 1950’s, California state law has required DOJ to maintain records of handgun sales in California, and recently added sales of long guns and ammunition. This data provides a unique opportunity for research not available anywhere else. Since at least 1989, researchers at the University of California, Davis have been utilizing that data in studies aimed at understanding and preventing various forms of firearm violence. In 2016, the Legislature directed the Regents of the University of California to establish a Firearm Violence Research Center (the Center) with the goals of producing interdisciplinary research addressing the nature and consequences of firearm violence, and working with policymakers to identify, implement, and evaluate innovative firearm violence prevention policies and programs.

To aid in those goals, the Legislature mandated through AB 173 that DOJ provide the Center (and, at the Attorney General’s discretion, other qualified researchers) with this firearms data. In October 2022, one individual gun owner and a handful of gun rights organizations sued DOJ, arguing that sharing information with these researchers under AB 173 violated their privacy rights under the California Constitution. On Friday, November 17, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, reversed an erroneous decision by the San Diego County Superior Court which barred DOJ from sharing the information. When this ruling is implemented, DOJ will again be free to follow AB 173 and transfer this firearms data to researchers for critical and lifesaving research. 

This victory comes after Attorney General Bonta released the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention Data Report in August 2023, shedding further light on the impact of gun violence in California and the nation. The report provides a robust review of gun violence data in California and throughout the nation to help guide policy and strategy discussions related to reducing gun violence. A copy of the report is available here.

On November 6, 2023, Attorney General Bonta released the second data report issued by the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, providing an in-depth look at the ties between domestic violence and firearms. The report examines data illustrating the impact of firearms-related domestic violence, including both family and intimate partner-related violence with firearms. 

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