In a unanimous decision announced on Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the National Rifle Association (NRA) by ruling that the New York State Department of Financial Services violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights. Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the opinion, stating that the NRA “plausibly alleged” that the regulator coerced entities it oversees to terminate their business relationships with the NRA as a form of punishment or suppression of the NRA’s advocacy.

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The court’s decision overruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s dismissal of the NRA’s lawsuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion, allowing the NRA to continue pursuing its case.

The lawsuit originated from actions taken by then-New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo, allegedly at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to blacklist the NRA. The regulator sent “guidance letters” to banks and insurers in 2018, pushing them to cut ties with the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations, citing reputational risks. These letters followed the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The NRA’s lawsuit alleges that Vullo used “backroom threats” to pressure regulated firms, offering leniency on unrelated infractions in exchange for their agreement to blacklist the NRA. The Supreme Court’s opinion acknowledged these allegations as potentially constituting a violation of the First Amendment.

The court’s decision vacated the Second Circuit’s ruling and enabled the NRA to continue pursuing its case in lower courts. Notably, the NRA received support from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) despite ideological differences. ACLU Legal Director David Cole, who represented the NRA in the case, emphasized the importance of preventing public officials from abusing their regulatory powers to target organizations based on their political views.

The Supreme Court’s decision marks a significant development in the NRA’s legal battle against the New York State Department of Financial Services, underscoring the broader implications for First Amendment protections and government regulation of advocacy groups.

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