California can continue to provide identifying information about gun owners to a research center, a state appeals court ruled, discarding a preliminary injunction favored by gun rights groups because the trial court didn’t consider the state’s interest in researching gun violence.
Gun rights groups didn’t effectively rebut California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s evidence about the public health impacts of gun violence or the need to conduct empirical research about gun policies in trial court, the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District ruled Friday. Because the trial court didn’t incorporate the state’s established interest into its analysis, it didn’t fulfill the second prong of a two-part test for privacy claims, Associate Justice Julia C. Kelety wrote in the unpublished opinion.
The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to enter an order denying the preliminary injunction.
State law requires that California keeps records of nearly all handgun and ammunition transfers. The legislature directed the Regents of the University of California in 2016 to create a Firearm Violence Research Center, and amended state law in following years to ensure the state provides all necessary data, including identifying information, to the center upon request.
California gun owner Ashleymarie Barba, the Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc., the Second Amendment Foundation, and several local gun owners groups collectively sued Bonta in 2022, saying the amendments violate their state constitutional privacy rights. Bonta appealed a trial court’s preliminary injunction that year barring the state from sending personal information to the center.
The trial court was using the standard for reviewing a complaint against a general demurrer rather than the standard for obtaining a preliminary injunction, the appeals court said.
Gun owners groups had argued that it should be presumed that the court used the right analysis even if it didn’t make clear its findings for each element of the test, particularly because the trial court named the correct standard in its ruling.
Benbrook Law Group represented Barba.
The case is Barba v. Bonta, Cal. Ct. App., 4th Dist., No. D081194, opinion 11/17/23.