Reports that the National Rifle Association and its Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) have been greatly weakened may be overstated.
While the gun rights lobby group has suffered some setbacks, it showed it is still going strong this week when the NRA-ILA filed a lawsuit against California challenging a law that allows the state to disclose sensitive personal information about law-abiding gun owners to universities and any “bona fide research institute.”
California Assembly Bill 173 would allow for the disclosure of sensitive information, including a gun owner's name, address, place of birth, phone number, occupation, driver's license or ID number, race, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, and even their social security number and types of firearms that they own. This information was gathered from law-abiding gun owners with the understanding that it would only be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes.
However, according to the bill's abstract, the information could be shared with the California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis to research “firearm-related violence.”
The abstract reads, in part:
The bill would generally require that the information above be made available to the center and researchers affiliated with the center, and, at the department's discretion, to any other nonprofit bona fide 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. The bill would require that material identifying individuals only be provided for research or statistical activities, and require that information to only be used for those purposes and would prohibit reports or publications derived from that information from identifying specific individuals. By providing access to criminal history information, the unauthorized furnishing of which is a crime, this bill would expand a crime and create a state-mandated local program. The bill would additionally require the Department of Justice to establish procedures for these requests, as specified.
The NRA-ILA warned that the use of this information would be outside legitimate law enforcement purposes.
“California must be held accountable for its near-constant, unconstitutional assaults on law-abiding gun owners and the Second Amendment,” NRA-ILA executive director Jason Ouimet said in a press release. “This law strips privacy rights from anyone who has ever purchased a firearm, transferred a firearm, purchased ammunition, or obtained a concealed-carry license. This is an outright violation of our rights and must be reversed.”
The NRA-ILA has further suggested that it could put law-abiding gun owners in harm's way.
“This information is a person's identity. And it's being handed over to organizations that have no duty to safeguard it,” Ouimet said. “This will do nothing to prevent crime — it will only serve to put law-abiding gun owners at risk. Gun owners are entitled to the same privacy rights as all law-abiding citizens. They should not be 'doxxed' for exercising their rights.”
This is just one of the cases that NRA-ILA has filed in recent years to curtail California's efforts to burden the Second Amendment. The NRA-ILA is also challenging California's restrictions on ammunition purchases and transfers, magazine bans, and the closure of gun shops and ranges.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.