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Sheriff Bianco: State needs to find cause of breach impacting gun permit holders

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Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said today he wants the California Department of Justice to fully account for why the names, birth dates, addresses, and other personal details of concealed carry gun permit holders were publicly compromised.

"The Sheriff's Department is demanding a detailed and thorough investigation ... to determine the cause and reason that this information was publicly released," according to an agency statement. "The safety and security of our community members is our highest priority, and we are committed to holding DOJ accountable by demanding reassurance and a prevention plan that our citizens will not be endangered by future criminal or negligent data leaks."  

California Attorney General Rob Bona disclosed Wednesday that, two days earlier, the state DOJ had somehow allowed spreadsheets to go online containing the personal identifying information of thousands of individuals granted concealed carry weapon -- or CCW -- permits, as well as those whose applications had been denied, between 2011 and 2021.  

The data leak was connected to changes to the DOJ's Firearms Dashboard Portal, which state officials described as an online repository intended to supply the public with figures on firearms sales, firearms related restraining orders and CCW issuances statewide.

The site was updated on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which rejected the concept of states imposing "may issue" regulations, which provide discretionary criteria for issuing concealed carry gun permits. The ruling laid the groundwork for establishing "shall issue" standards in all 50 states, leaving only a few narrow options for jurisdictions to deny applicants' permits, such as criminal history.

In addition to names, birth dates and addresses, details leaked via the DOJ portal included racial backgrounds, driver's license numbers and prior convictions, if any, officials said. No financial information was compromised.  

"I immediately launched an investigation into how this occurred ...and will take strong corrective measures where necessary,'' Bonta said. "We acknowledge the stress this may cause those individuals whose information was exposed."  

Along with the CCW registry, other dashboards compromised included the Assault Weapon Registry, Handguns Certified for Sale, Dealer Record of Sale and Firearm Safety Certificate, according to the DOJ.

Bonta's opponent in the November election, former federal prosecutor Nathan Hochman, said the data leak resulted in "hundreds of judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and domestic violence victims'" private details to lay open to scrutiny for 24 hours, potentially putting their safety at risk.  

The Firearms Dashboard Portal was deactivated immediately after the data compromise was discovered.

Bonta said the state will offer credit monitoring services to those who were impacted.

Bianco urged county residents concerned about the data release, including the prospect of identity theft, to contact the DOJ, as well as visit the Federal Trade Commission's ID theft recovery portal, www.identitytheft.gov.  

The precise number of CCW permit holders countywide was not published by sheriff's officials.  

Prior to Bianco's 2018 election, there were between 1,000 and 1,500, according to staff serving under then-Sheriff Stan Sniff.   

The process of approving CCW permits was one of the issues in that election, with Bianco vowing to establish a faster, more efficient and user-friendly application process.

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