The National Rifle Association has filed a financial discrimination lawsuit against the state of New York, claiming that government officials in Albany threatened banks with fines and political punishment unless they cut ties with the gun-rights organization. According to the lawsuit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York’s Department of Financial Services implemented a “blacklisting campaign” against any financial companies who did business with the NRA. The lobbying group alleges that Cuomo and the Democrats infringed the NRA’s right to “speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment.”
“Directed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, this campaign involves selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats with a singular goal—to deprive the NRA and its constituents of their First Amendment right to speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment,” the lawsuit states. “Simply put, Defendants made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA.”
In a statement, Cuomo said the lawsuit was without merit, blasting the NRA for a “futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns.”
“In New York,” the governor said, “we won’t be intimidated by frivolous court actions from a group of lobbyists bent on chipping away at commonsense gun safety laws that many responsible gun owners actually support. We have an obligation to protect New Yorkers, and this sham suit will do nothing to stop that.”
The meat of the lawsuit stems from million-dollar fines the New York DFS has levied against two insurers who have offered a program called “Carry Guard” which protects gun owners involved in a shooting incident. New York claims that the program violates state insurance law and that the NRA advertised the program as something it created. All of the financial institutions involved in selling the lawsuit have agreed to no longer carry any NRA-branded insurance programs.
But even if the courts find that New York had the right to crack down on these insurance programs, they may be less apt to give Cuomo a pass on his press release from last month in which he deliberately and publicly encouraged banks to stop doing business with the NRA.
“New York may have the strongest gun laws in the country, but we must push further to ensure that gun safety is a top priority for every individual, company, and organization that does business across the state,” Cuomo said in an April 14 press release. “I am directing the Department of Financial Services to urge insurers and bankers statewide to determine whether any relationship they may have with the NRA or similar organizations sends the wrong message to their clients and their communities who often look to them for guidance and support. This is not just a matter of reputation, it is a matter of public safety, and working together, we can put an end to gun violence in New York once and for all.”
This crosses the line between enforcing the law and advancing a political agenda. And since that agenda is squarely at odds with the constitutional rights of the NRA, we have to think that this lawsuit is not as “frivolous” as Cuomo has made it out to be.