The National Rifle Association has hit New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Department of Financial Services over an alleged “blacklisting campaign” that dissuaded insurance companies and financial institutions from doing business with the organization.
The suit, which was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges that both Cuomo and the NYDFS attempted to quash the organization’s ability to “speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment,” Reuters reported.
Earlier in the week, the NYDFS had fined insurance company Chubb Ltd. and its Illinois Union Insurance Company subsidiary $1.3 million because they “unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for acts of intentional wrongdoing.”
On May 2, the NYDFS also announced a $7 million settlement with Lockton Cos., a company which administered an NRA-branded insurance program, again positing that their “Carry Guard” insurance program — which, according to Bloomberg, provided “comprehensive personal firearms liability insurance” — also included coverage for illegal acts.
In a statement, an NRA lawyer said that the fines were the “culmination of years of political activism by Cuomo against the NRA and gun rights organizations.”
Sadly, it’s working, too. On Wednesday, U.K.-based insurer Lloyds of London announced it was terminating its relationship with the NRA in light of the decision over Carry Guard.
“The Lloyd’s Corporation has given very careful consideration as to whether syndicates at Lloyd’s should continue to insure programs offered, marketed, endorsed or otherwise made available through the National Rifle Association of America,” a spokesman for Lloyds of London said upon announcing that their underwriters were terminating existing NRA programs and that there would be no replacements for them.
In addition to the fines, Cuomo also initiated a letter from the NYDFS to financiers, state-chartered and otherwise, in which they were warned not to do business with the NRA.
“There is a fair amount of precedent in the business world where firms have implemented measures in areas such as the environment, healthcare, and civil rights in fulfilling their corporate social responsibility,” the letter from NYDFS superintendent Maria Vullo read, according to TheBlaze.
“The recent actions of a number of financial institutions that severed their ties with the NRA and have taken other actions after the AR-15 style rifle killed 17 people in the school in Parkland, Florida, is an example of such a precedent.”
The letter further instructed them to manage their “reputational risk” by keeping an eye on their relationships with “gun promotion organizations.” In other words, nice bank/insurer you got there. Shame if anything were to … happen to it.
“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 a press release.
In spite of the protection-racket tone of the letter and the seriousness of the lawsuit, Cuomo sounded flippant in a statement issued after the suit was filed.
“The NRA’s lawsuit is a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns,” the New York governor said.
“In New York, we won’t be intimidated by frivolous court actions from a group of lobbyists bent on chipping away at common sense 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.”
Right. Good luck with that defense. Strong-arming banks and other financial institutions from doing business with the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations is not only a dangerous precedent, it’s unconstitutional.
Just think of the outrage if a conservative governor sent out a letter warning against dealings with the ACLU, another constitutional-rights organization. The outrage would be immediate — and well-founded. If that governor’s department of financial services issued fines against those organizations, the outrage would be multiplied exponentially. While the indignation over Cuomo’s intimidation of the NRA has been muted considering that the Second Amendment isn’t terribly popular with the media, the basic idea is the same.
I would guess that this lawsuit has a pretty decent chance of succeeding, thanks to the fact that the governor of a state is actively seeking to undermine the NRA’s freedom of speech and association through threats and fines. One hopes this lawsuit will go some way in teaching lawmakers that our constitutional rights — even the unpopular ones — are non-negotiable.
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