SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Department of Justice admitted on Wednesday that the agency falsely disclosed the personal information of perhaps hundreds of thousands of gun owners in up to six state-run databases, a wider publicity than the agency initially received a day earlier.
Rob Bonta, the Democrat who heads the agency and is running for re-election in November, said he was “deeply disturbed and angry” at not protecting the information his department is required to keep. He ordered an investigation and promised to resolve any issues.
“This unauthorized release of personal information is unacceptable and falls far short of my expectations for this department,” he said. “We recognize the stress this can cause on those individuals whose information has been released.”
The California Rifle and Pistol Association noted that the release came days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected New York’s demand that those who wish to carry concealed weapons provide a reason. That also derailed California’s similar requirement, though state lawmakers and Bonta are working to impose new requirements.
The association said the “ruthless” release contained information about law enforcement officers, including judges, as well as others who had applied for permits “such as victims of rape and domestic violence.”
Names, dates of birth, gender, race, driver’s license numbers, addresses and criminal histories were revealed of people who were granted or denied permits to carry concealed weapons between 2011 and 2021, the department said. Social Security numbers and financial information have not been disclosed.
In addition, the dashboards of the assault weapons registry, the handguns certified for sale, the dealer’s sales record, the security of the firearms certificate and the state’s weapons ban order were compromised, the department said. Officials said they were investigating the extent of personal information being exposed in those databases.
The information about hidden carrying licenses was publicly available in a spreadsheet for less than 24 hours, officials said, from when the department updated its Firearms Dashboard Portal on Monday afternoon until it closed the website Tuesday morning.
“It’s outrageous that law-abiding people have been endangered by this violation,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. He said sheriffs are concerned about the risk it poses to licensees.
Bonta’s office couldn’t immediately say how many people are in each database, whether the data has been downloaded and how often, or when the public website would be restored. California officials issued about 40,000 hiding and carrying permits last year, up from more than 100,000 during the peak year of 2016, according to information on the Department of Justice website.
Republican state Senator Brian Dahle, who is running for governor against Democratic administration Gavin Newsom, said many of the women who want to carry concealed weapons “do so because they fear for their lives and safety. Consequently, those women will now have to worry that the person they least wanted to see just got their address through this careless act of bureaucratic idiocy.
Bonta said in a statement that the unauthorized release “is unacceptable and falls far short of my expectations for this department.” He said he immediately began an investigation into how the release took place “and will take strong corrective action where necessary.”
He said he is aware of the stress the release could cause, and the department will notify people whose information has been released. It will also provide credit monitoring services for those individuals.
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