New York’s attorney general has filed a motion to dismiss a viewpoint-based discrimination suit by the National Rifle Association, arguing that the gun advocacy organization’s First Amendment rights have remained uninhibited amid state efforts to regulate insurers selling products to its members.
In a filing late Monday, the office of Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the decision by the Department of Financial Services to investigate a liability and legal services insurance program for gun owners that the NRA promoted was part of “the regular course of business.” The investigation led to the shutdown of a number of programs, that included millions in fines and a settlement with the insurers and their agents. The NRA is being investigated for its role in marketing the policies.
The NRA has claimed the May consent decree, as well as later moves by the state encouraging insurers and banks to review gun owner policies that regulators warned my likewise run afoul of state law, were illegal attempts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to silence its constitutionally protected gun activism through “selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats.”
In its filing Monday, the Attorney General’s Office acknowledges that Cuomo and the NRA “have a longstanding history of strong disagreement related to gun control.” The gun group has opposed stronger gun laws passed under Cuomo, including 2013’s New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which included bans on a wider range of semi-automatic weapons and a limit on ammunition magazine capacity.
More recently, the Attorney General’s Office pointed to Cuomo’s proposed legislation, announced on June 12, that would put greater restrictions on firearm possession by those determined by a court to be potentially harmful to themselves or others. The NRA immediately began an operation in opposition to the proposal, according to the office, proving the group’s First Amendment rights are operating in full effect.
“When stripped of its rhetoric and repeated conclusory statements, the Complaint alleges only that actions of the Defendants caused the NRA to lose existing, and prospective, business relationships with companies in the insurance industry,” the motion states. “However, the federal and state constitutions do not protect against such a deprivation, especially where the underlying business interest is plainly unlawful.”
The NRA’s suit is being led by Brewer Attorneys & Counselors name attorney William Brewer III of Dallas. In a statement, Brewer said there was “no question that DFS urged the institutions it regulates to disassociate themselves from the NRA—at the expense of the NRA and many New York insurance consumers.”
“The filing does nothing to change our view that Governor Cuomo and the DFS wildly exceeded their regulatory mandate by issuing guidance that essentially directed banks and insurance companies to cease doing business with the NRA,” Brewer said. “The NRA believes this is blatant viewpoint discrimination—designed to attack the First Amendment rights of the NRA and its law-abiding members.”
A spokeswoman for the attorney general did not respond to a request for further comment on the motion.