Unanimous Win for Your NRA at the Supreme Court

by
posted on May 31, 2024
Supreme Court Equal Justice Under Law

In a rare unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of your National Rifle Association in the First Amendment case NRA v. Vullo.

Uncommon for a decision benefitting a Second Amendment advocacy organization, the decision was written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In it, she held that “that the NRA plausibly alleged that [Maria T.] Vullo violated the First Amendment by coercing [New York State Department of Financial Services]-regulated entities to terminate their business relationships with the NRA in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s advocacy.”

As a result, the high court thus ruled that the “judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is vacated, and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

In other words, this overrules the Second Circuit dismissal of this case, and so allows the NRA to continue arguing this critical case against the state of New York.

“What is right still matters,” says Doug Hamlin, executive vice president of the NRA. “That this decision is unanimous shows that all the justices on the Supreme Court understand that government agencies can’t be permitted to be weaponized against the American people. By fighting this First Amendment battle, the NRA has helped save more than just the Second Amendment. All Americans, whatever their politics, should be thanking the NRA today.”

Continuing, the Supreme Court decision explains that “Vullo was free to criticize the NRA and pursue the conceded violations of New York insurance law. She could not wield her power, however, to threaten enforcement actions against DFS-regulated entities in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy. Because the complaint plausibly alleges that Vullo did just that, the Court holds that the NRA stated a First Amendment violation.”

For those just tuning into this crucial case, the NRA has been arguing that former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) urged Vullo to use the regulatory power of the Department of Financial Services to financially blacklist the NRA, by coercing banks and insurers into avoiding ties with the Association in order to suppress its pro-Second Amendment speech. It is unthinkable what could happen to associations such as the NRA if government officials are permitted to use their power to punish them for political reasons with no accountability, and with no recourse for those targeted.

On May 11, 2018, in response to Vullo's attempts to silence the NRA through “guidance letters,” backroom threats, and other measures to cause financial institutions to “drop” business, the NRA filed suit. After winning in the trial court, the NRA's case was dismissed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Unshakeable, the NRA took its case to the highest court in the land. The NRA was joined by the ACLU, legal experts, constitutional scholars, and 25 states in opposing Vullo’s actions.

ACLU National Legal Director David Cole argued before the Court that Vullo and other New York officials abused their authority in violation of the First Amendment. Cole told the justices, “There’s no question on this record that they encouraged people to punish the NRA.” Cole also said, “It was a campaign by the state’s highest political officials to use their power to coerce a boycott of a political advocacy organization because they disagreed with its advocacy.”

The U.S. Department of Justice also sided with the NRA, as Assistant to the Solicitor General Ephraim McDowell argued that the court should find that New York officials violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights. Twenty-two amicus briefs representing more than 190 individuals and organizations were filed in support of the NRA’s position, including a filing by several of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. The amicus briefs also include a joint filing by dozens of congressional Republicans and filings by 25 state attorneys general. The support came from across the political spectrum.

Now, the Supreme Court has unanimously sided with the NRA’s claim that the state of New York did, indeed, attack this association’s First Amendment rights. This case can now continue, with the NRA seeking monetary damages from the state of New York.

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