Gun rights advocates have long been skeptical of state actors maintaining records of firearm owners fearing the information could end up in the wrong hands.
A recent breach of databases maintained by the California Department of Justice has resulted in just that. The name, age, and address of every Californian permitted to carry a concealed firearm was extracted from the database and, authorities are suggesting, posted to social media.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement agency in the state to publicly announce the leak on its Facebook page.
Yesterday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta published a press release describing public access to “new and updated firearms data” via the DOJ’s 2022 Firearms Dashboard Portal. Bonta said, “Transparency is key to increasing public trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve.” Somehow, that Firearms Dashboard, created to be a tool of transparency and increase public trust, instead became the conduit to leak all the names of California’s CCW holders.
The DOJ shut down access to the dashboard after news of the data leak emerged. Bonta nor his office have offered any comment about the circumstance. A quick perusal of Bonta’s Twitter account shows that yesterday Bonta held court with the press and law enforcement to talk about hate crimes in the Golden State, likely in the same time frame the vulnerability of the databases was located and private information about CCW holders were being disseminated on social media.
The Attorney General’s Office told the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office it is “working to discover the scope of the breach and will contact CCW holders directly to advise them of the breach and will institute a program to reduce any harm or damages to CCW holders that resulted from the breach.”
This data breach comes just days after Attorney General Bonta announced a major shift to CCW permitting in the state prompted by the recent Supreme Court decision New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The court found that the State of New York’s requirement that “proper cause” must be demonstrated to obtain a concealed carry permit went against the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. California was specifically named due to its “good cause” being similarly unconstitutional.
Every California County has the autonomy to determine the “Good Cause” requirement CCW holders are to meet. In 37 California counties, including Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity, “good cause” was met by simply stating “self-defense”. Ten counties had their “good cause” requirements met by “recreation-related risks.” These good cause requirements continue to become more specific and operationally exclusive. In Marin, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties, the only conditions that meet “good cause” are death threats or a “corrupt issuance”, which is a reference to a pay-to-play scheme that involved the Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith and accusations she was trading political donation for CCW permits.
If any CCW holder finds that their identity was stolen or compromised, contact your local law enforcement agency.