• June 18, 2024

NRA Hails Supreme Court Ruling On Free Speech Violation By NY Officials

 NRA Hails Supreme Court Ruling On Free Speech Violation By NY Officials
BY TYLER DURDEN
FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2024

Authored by Michael Clements via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The stage for the National Rifle Association Presidential Forum in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 9, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is celebrating a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that New York State officials violated its First Amendment rights.

On Thursday, the High Court ruled in National Rifle Association v. Maria T. Vullo that Ms. Vullo and New York State officials used their regulatory authority to coerce insurance companies, banks, and other financial institutions into cutting ties with the Second Amendment advocacy group based on the NRA’s political mission.

Ms. Vullo was the Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) when the NRA claims the coercion took place. The DFS is the New York state regulatory agency overseeing banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions.

According to the court’s opinion, state officials are free to express their views. They are not free to punish those who do not share their views.

A government official can share her views freely and criticize particular beliefs, and she can do so forcefully in the hopes of persuading others to follow her lead,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the majority opinion on May 30.

“In doing so, she can rely on the merits and force of her ideas, the strength of her convictions, and her ability to inspire others. What she cannot do, however, is use the power of the State to punish or suppress disfavored expression,” she added.

NRA officials said in a press release that the decision will have far-reaching implications for the First Amendment.

This victory is a win for the NRA in the fight to protect freedom,” recently-elected NRA President Bob Barr wrote. “Regulators are now on notice: this is a win for not only the NRA but every organization who might otherwise suffer from an abuse of government power.”

An NRA lawyer agreed in an email to The Epoch Times.

“This is a landmark victory for the NRA and all who care about our First Amendment freedom,” William A. Brewer III, who represented the NRA, wrote. “The opinion confirms that New York government officials abused the power of their office to silence a political enemy.”

Attorneys for Ms. Vullo did not respond by press time to an email seeking comment.

In court filings, the NRA claimed, Ms. Vullo used public statements, guidance memoranda, “back channel threats,” consent decrees, and multi-million dollar fines to force businesses to drop the NRA as a customer.

According to the NRA’s petition, in October 2017, DFS, under Ms. Vullo and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction began an investigation into the Carry Guard.

Carry Guard was an insurance plan promoted by the NRA for people who carried firearms for self-protection. The plan covered certain costs if the policyholder was involved in a legal self-defense shooting.

The DFS investigation focused on insurance broker Lockton Companies, LLC, which administered the program, underwriter Chubb Limited, and the insurance marketplace Lloyd’s of London.

A couple of months after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and while the DFS investigation was still underway, Ms. Vullo sent two memoranda titled “Guidance on Risk Management Relating to the NRA and Similar Gun Promotion Organizations.”

The April 19, 2018, memos were sent to “New York State Chartered or Licensed Financial Institutions” and “All Insurers Doing Business in the State of New York.”

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for their official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022. (Front L–R) Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan. (Back L–R) Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Ms. Vullo wrote, “There is a fair amount of precedent in the business world where firms have implemented measures in areas such as the environment, caring for the sick, and civil rights in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility.”

She warned of “the social backlash against the National Rifle Association, and similar organizations that promote guns that lead to senseless violence . . .”

Lawyer Slams State Tactics

Ms. Vullo pointed out that the companies are in the business of managing risk, “including their own reputational risks. . .”

Waukesha, Wisconsin-based lawyer and Second Amendment social media influencer Tom Grieve compared New York’s tactics to those used by organized crime in an email to The Epoch Times. He wrote that New York’s case was flawed from the start.

I don’t know what is worse: that this issue had to go to the Supreme Court or that this is far from the first or last 2nd Amendment-related case that appears obvious at the outset of this term,” his email reads.

Mark W. Smith, constitutional attorney and host of the Four Boxes Diner Second Amendment YouTube channel says it’s instructive that the justices considered guidance documents, press releases, and other statements issued by the state and not just direct threats as evidence of coercion.

“The Court’s 9-0 decision, written by liberal Justice Sotomayor, sends a powerful signal that government officials cannot use threats and inducements based on their regulatory authority to attempt to throttle speech they don’t like,” Mr. Smith wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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