First Amendment

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The National Rifle Association has filed an amended lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that contends the state has caused financial hardship by discouraging banks and insurers from doing business with the organization.

The July 20 amended suit says Cuomo and the superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services acted in a “malicious” conspiracy to harm the financial well-being of the association, the National Law Journal reports. DFS regulates insurers and financial institutions.

The suit cites “a pair of ominous ‘guidance’ letters” from last April that urged banks and insurers to manage the reputational risks of dealing with the NRA and other gun promotion organizations. The letters were intended “to intimidate institutions into acceding to a political blacklisting campaign,” the suit says.

The suit also cites a tweet by Cuomo that said, “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.”

The suit alleges the state violated the First Amendment rights of the group and its members to speak freely in defense of the Second Amendment. The suit also alleges selective enforcement of the state’s insurance law and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage.

The suit says DFS dissuaded insurers from business relationships with the NRA after initiating an investigation of “Carry Guard” insurance, offered by the NRA through Lockton Companies. The policy helped pay the legal fees for the criminal and civil defense of people involved in self-defense shootings.

New York maintained the policy was illegal under a state law that bars insurance for defense costs arising from a crime, according to the National Law Journal. The state also said the policy did not meet New York’s minimum insurance requirements.

But the NRA says the Carry Guard probe led to Lockton terminating its business relationship with the NRA, the suit said. Lockton had provided brokerage services for NRA-endorsed insurance, and had provided the NRA’s general liability, umbrella and media liability coverage, the suit says.

Chubb’s and Lloyd’s of London have also ended business relationships, the suit says.

Since then, the suit says, the NRA experienced difficulty finding replacement corporate insurance coverage. In addition, several financial institutions have withdrawn bids in response to an NRA request for proposals, the suit says.

The suit warns of several consequences. If the NRA can’t find media liability coverage, there is a substantial risk that it will be forced to shut down its television channel, and to end publication of several print publications and magazines, the NRA says. Without general liability and umbrella coverage, the NRA can’t maintain its offices, or hold off-site rallies and meetings.