Databases for gun owners come in many shapes and sizes. They exist internationally in countries where gun ownership is strictly controlled, guns are registered, and individuals must be licensed before buying/possessing a gun. Such databases also exist domestically in states like California, where gun control laws require residents purchasing firearms to pass a background check, register their firearms with the state government, and—in the case of handguns—acquire a Handgun Safety Certificate before the sale can proceed.
At the other end of the spectrum, even gun-friendly states keep a database of concealed-carry permit holders, and some of those states allow online permit renewal. Such renewal is convenient, but it can translate into privacy concerns.
For example, on May 22 the Associated Press reported that overseas hackers may have obtained the names of over 16,000 concealed-carry permit holders in Florida. The hackers might have also gained the Social Security numbers of nearly 500 people, none of which were concealed-carry permit holders. Again, this was in a gun-friendly state like Florida.
In October 2016, California “inadvertently” released the names of nearly 3,500 of the state’s firearm instructors. Fox News reported that the leaked information contained “dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and California identification numbers.” The personal information was released after a Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gather information on state Firearms Safety Certifications.
It took the state two months just to alert the firearms instructors that the leak had occurred!
It took the state two months just to alert the firearms instructors that the leak had occurred!At the same time that California firearms instructors were informed of the leak of their personal information, Australia’s Sydney Morning-Herald reported that the addresses of a number of gun owners had been released via “a simple privacy blunder.” The leak exposed the fact that a “treasure trove of addresses” were discoverable via “online searches of publicly available information” leading to gun owners.
A gun owner—who is also a veteran police officer—discovered the readily available information and “alerted researchers.” The Morning-Herald reports that Fairfax Media then put the claims to the test, seeking information on “about 20 pistols, revolvers and long arms and was able to find names and addresses easily, creating a potential shopping list for gun thieves.”
And in a different leak, the Victorian government issued a Jan. 18, 2017, apology for having accidentally emailed out nearly 9,000 gun owners’ names. Abc.net.au reported that “customer service staff at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning last month intended to email gun license renewal forms, but uploaded the wrong attachment and accidentally sent the names, addresses and gun license details of 8,709 people.”
Shooters and Fishers MP Daniel Young described the email, saying “a nice handy list of all the people who are keeping firearms in their homes would be great in the hands of a criminal.”
Ironically, news of the ready availability of gun owners’ addresses and the Victorian email error came only a month after the Morning-Herald reported that more than “6,000 firearms” were stolen across Australia between 2013 and 2015 alone.
In London, the Metropolitan Police (Met) contracted with a third-party firm, which then subcontracted with another firm, regarding a product to help licensed gun owners protect their firearms. The goal was to alert gun owners about an anti-theft product called Smartwater Design, but the company ended up sharing sensitive private data on London’s licensed gun owners with third-party contractors.
The British Association for Shooting & Conservation condemned the leak with a press release, saying:
"The Met appears to have struck at the heart of a key tenet of firearms security, that which comes from obscurity. Those who shoot are told at every turn by the police to take every precaution against strangers discovering where firearms may be stored. Such information is currency for criminals."
In addition to all the disclosures of private information on gun owners, one cannot overlook the climate in Washington, D.C., where enemies of President Donald Trump regularly leak information that is not simply personal, but classified. In such an environment—and with the litany of leaks that have already occurred both in the United States and around the world—how can gun owners ever be expected to trust politicians with a database that contains types or numbers of guns owned, addresses and other personal information?
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at [email protected].