The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) came out in defense of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Friday, accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo of violating the First Amendment by targeting the group’s access to basic financial services.
ACLU legal director David Cole sided firmly with the NRA in its ongoing legal battle against the Cuomo administration, which has conducted a sustained campaign to deprive the Second Amendment advocacy group of access to insurance and banking services.
“In the ACLU’s view, targeting a nonprofit advocacy group and seeking to deny it financial services because it promotes a lawful activity (the use of guns) violates the First Amendment,” Cole wrote. “Because we believe the governor’s actions, as alleged, threaten the First Amendment rights of all advocacy organizations, the ACLU on Friday filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the NRA’s right to have its day in court.”
The NRA sued the Cuomo administration in May, alleging the state financial regulatory agency engaged in a “blacklisting campaign” against banks and insurance companies contracted with the NRA, infringing upon the group’s constitutional right to “speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment.”
The suit was filed after insurance companies Lockton and Chubb were fined $7 million and $1.3 million respectively for insuring the NRAÆs Carry Guard program, which reimburses licensed gun owners for legal expenses incurred after justifiably firing their weapon.
NRA officials claim that they have been unable to replace the sanctioned insurance providers, who revoked their services following the fines, due to fear among their competitors that they will be similarly targeted by the state’s regulator apparatus.
After stipulating that the “ACLU does not oppose reasonable restrictions on guns,” Cole argues that the court should allow the NRAÆs suit against the Cuomo administration to proceed into the discovery phase, despite the state’s motion to dismiss.
Cuomo, who routinely invokes his administration’s opposition to the NRA, celebrated the group’s potential demise in a mailer sent to voters this week.
“If the NRA goes bankrupt, I will remember them in my thoughts and prayers,” the mailer read.