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The National Rifle Association has the support of 18 states, and last week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear what will undoubtedly be a historic free speech case.
The NRA has accused a New York state official of pressuring financial institutions not to do business with the organization over its unwavering support for the Second Amendment.
“The NRA says Maria Vullo, who served as superintendent of the state Department of Financial Services in 2018, used the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting to threaten institutions with action from her agency if they did not distance themselves from the NRA,” The Western Journal reported, citing a CNN story.
According to the legacy gun rights organization’s plea to the nation’s highest court, the issue is much bigger than the NRA itself, which argued: “Both this Court and the lower courts have repeatedly rejected the notion that the government’s pursuit of its regulatory goals might justify blacklisting unpopular speakers.”
“The Second Circuit’s opinion below gives state officials free rein to financially blacklist their political opponents—from gun-rights groups to abortion-rights groups, to environmentalist groups, and beyond,” the NRA wrote in its filing.
“It also allows selective investigations and penalties targeting business deals with disfavored speakers, even if the regulator’s hostility is based on an entity’s political speech and treats similarly similar deals with customers who do not have controversial views,” the NRA said.
“In sum, it lets government officials, acting with undisguised political animus, transmute ‘general backlash’ against controversial advocacy into a justification for crackdowns on advocates (and firms who serve them), eviscerating free speech rights,” the group noted further.
Trevor Morrison, an attorney for Vullo, said that the state agency was only handing out guidance to assist banks and insurers that wanted to put some distance between themselves and the NRA, claiming that none of them were being forced into taking any particular course of action.
But the gun rights organization said that Vullo did not attempt to punish banks and insurers for past infractions if they agreed to distance themselves from the NRA, while also touting the penalties levied against institutions and businesses that did not do so.
As a result, said the NRA filing, “numerous financial institutions perceived Vullo’s actions as threatening and, therefore, ceased business arrangements with the NRA or refused new ones.”
In their filing, the group said, “An overt campaign by state officials to use regulatory power against a disfavored civil rights organization—in this case, the NRA—exactly because of its disfavored speech at least as clearly merits this Court’s attention and reversal.”
Montana, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming jointly filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the NRA’s request to have the court hear the case.
“This case concerns troubling allegations of governmental abuse of power,” the states argued in their filing. They also said that the decision being appealed gave “state officials license to target and crack down on their political opponents’ protected speech.”
“The Second Circuit’s decision gives government officials license to financially cripple their political opponents or otherwise stifle their protected speech—whether those rivals advocate for school choice, abortion rights, religious liberty, environmental protections, or any other politically salient issue,” they wrote.
CNN said the case will likely be heard early next year.
The high court also agreed to hear challenges to the Biden administration’s ban on so-called “bump stocks.”
That case, Garland v. Cargill, presents to the high court the question of whether a bump stock device actually transforms certain weapons into a “machine gun” as defined under federal law because it is designed to convert rifles into weapons that fire “automatically more than one shot… by a single function of the trigger.”
Following a 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 60 people dead and 500 more injured, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives actually outlawed bump stocks during the Trump administration.