ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – Advancing a suit by the National Rifle Association, a federal judge refused Tuesday to toss claims that New York banks and insurers are using selective enforcement to harm the group’s longstanding corporate relationships.
Citing the multiple critical statements against the NRA that have been made over the last year by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Department of Financial Services, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy ruled that the NRA has enough to bring its free-speech claims to trial.
“However controversial it may be, ‘gun promotion’ advocacy is core political speech entitled to constitutional protection,” wrote McAvoy in a 71-page ruling. “The guidance letters and Cuomo press release’s comments directed to this protected speech provides a sufficient basis to invoke the First Amendment on these claims.”
Although the NRA’s free-speech claims vaulted dismissal Tuesday, the court did toss other claims including tortuous interference, breach of contract and conspiracy.
Representatives for the NRA and Cuomo did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Under the direction of Governor Cuomo, New York’s Department of Financial Services began an investigation in October 2017 of the NRA’s Carry Guard Insurance Program, which provides coverage for those who use a firearm in self-defense.
“If you’re ever forced to use a firearm in self-defense, you could soon find yourself at the center of a legal nightmare that could cost you your life savings — or even cost you your freedom and years of your life,” NRA’s webpage for Carry Guard states.
The New York government says it began investigating the program because it was not properly licensed by the state to provide insurance policies in New York, but the NRA has argued that the investigation was just a means to attack the organization, especially since Cuomo has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the NRA.
On April 20, 2018, Cuomo tweeted: “The NRA is an extremist organization. I urge companies in New York State to revisit any ties they have to the NRA and consider their reputations, and responsibility to the public.”
After the release of the governor’s new policy directives, the NRA’s Carry Guard programs were suspended in New York.