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Supreme Court Unanimously Backs NRA Complaint Against New York Lawfare

In what was a surprise to many observers, the United States Supreme Court found that New York officials violated the First Amendment by coercing insurance and banking companies to no longer do business with the National Rifle Association as punishment for the group’s gun views.


The NRA’s lawsuit, seeking unspecified monetary damages, accused Vullo of unlawfully retaliating against the group for its constitutionally protected gun rights advocacy by targeting it with an “implicit censorship regime.” Its suit alleged that New York’s “blacklisting” campaign sought to deprive the NRA of basic financial services and threatened its advocacy work, reported John Kruzel of Thompson Reuters.


The case arose from actions taken by Maria T. Vullo in her capacity as Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. On February 27, 2018, Vullo met with senior executives at Lloyd’s, expressed her views in favor of gun control, and told the Lloyd’s executives “that DFS was less interested in pursuing” infractions unrelated to any NRA business “so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA.”


Vullo and Lloyd’s struck a deal: Lloyd’s “would instruct its syndicates to cease underwriting firearm-related policies and would scale back its NRA-related business,” and “in exchange, DFS would focus its forthcoming affinity-insurance enforcement action solely on those syndicates which served the NRA.”


The message was loud and clear: Lloyd’s “could avoid liability for [unrelated] infractions” if it “aided DFS’s campaign against gun groups” by terminating its business relationships with them. As the reaction from Lloyd’s further confirms, Vullo’s alleged communications—whether seen as a threat or as an inducement—were reasonably understood as coercive, the Supreme Court concluded.


This was a classic Mafia-style shakedown in which Lloyd’s was given the choice of helping Democrats destroy the NRA in return for the Democrat-controlled government going light on it for potential violations in other areas of the company’s business.


The Court found, in an opinion written by Justice Sonya Sotomayer no less, that, “While a government official can share her views freely and criticize particular beliefs in the hopes of persuading others, she may not use the power of her office to punish or suppress disfavored expression.”

 

Perhaps the best news in the opinion is that it does not appear to be strictly limited to the NRA’s dispute with New York. After Vullo regulators throughout the country will have to consider whether their nonbinding guidance documents are vulnerable to costly First Amendment challenges.

 

This was a big win for free speech and brought together a disparate group of individuals and organizations, from the constitutional conservatives at the NRA, to the libertarian CATO Institute, to the Left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union, to defend the First Amendment from Mafia-style suppression of free speech and the right of free association.


CHQ Editor George Rasley is a Glock ® certified pistol armorer and is a veteran of over 300 political campaigns, including every Republican presidential campaign from 1976 to 2008. He served as lead advance representative for Governor Sarah Palin in 2008 and has served as a staff member, consultant, or advance representative for some of America's most recognized conservative Republican political figures, including President Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. A member of American MENSA, he served in policy and communications positions on the House and Senate staff, and during the George H.W. Bush administration he served on the White House staff of Vice President Dan Quayle.



  • First Amendment

  • National Rifle Association

  • Maria T. Vullo

  • Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services

  • insurance companies

  • banking companies

  • New York officials

  • gun rights advocacy

  • blacklisting

  • gun control

  • gun rights

  • Red Flag Laws

  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor

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