It’s a strange time in American politics.
Just weeks after the historically anti-gun Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of open carry, the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief last week backing the National Rifle Association in their lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Although public officials are free to express their opinions and may condemn viewpoints or groups they view as inimical to public welfare, they cannot abuse their regulatory authority to retaliate against disfavored advocacy organizations and to impose burdens on those organizations’ ability to conduct lawful business,” the brief says.
Gov. Cuomo has made targeting the NRA a central plank in his campaign for governor, and, as GunsAmerica has reported, he’s weaponized New York’s regulatory agencies to dry up the NRA’s financial services in the state.
As the ACLU outlines in its brief, in April of this year Gov. Cuomo and Superintendent Maria Vullo issued a press release directing insurance companies and banks to “review” their relationships with the NRA and other “similar organizations” due to potential a “reputational risk.” In the weeks that followed, insurance agencies began terminating their relationships with the NRA, and the pro-gun organization sued Gov. Cuomo on First Amendment grounds.
The ACLU reviewed the facts of the case and concluded that the state’s motion to dismiss the NRA’s suit should be denied.
“Because the NRA has plausibly alleged that Defendants threatened adverse action against banks and insurers associated with the NRA, and that Defendants’ actions were motivated by hostility to the NRA’s political advocacy, the Motion to Dismiss should be denied,” the brief said.
David Cole, the ACLU’s legal director, followed up the brief with a blog post, warning that if liberals allow anti-gun governors to weaponize regulatory agencies, conservative governors might be able to do the same.
“If Cuomo can do this to the NRA, then conservative governors could have their financial regulators threaten banks and financial institutions that do business with any other group whose political views the governor opposes,” he said. “The First Amendment bars state officials from using their regulatory power to penalize groups merely because they promote disapproved ideas.”
For his part, Gov. Cuomo isn’t doing himself any favors if his legal team tries to argue against illegal bias. The governor hasn’t been shy about riding the post-Parkland anti-gun wave back to Albany, calling the NRA an “extremist organization” on Twitter.
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. https://t.co/RwD9wdNxiY
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 20, 2018
He also claimed on Facebook that “the regulations NY put in place are working. We’re forcing the NRA into financial jeopardy. We won’t stop until we shut them down.”
While the ACLU denies the individual right to keep and bear arms, this isn’t the first time the traditionally anti-gun civil rights organization has stuck up (tangentially, at least) for gun owners. Earlier this year Vermont Governor Phil Scott came under fire from the state’s ACLU chapter for blocking Facebook comments critical of his anti-gun stances.
“We have been contacted by multiple Vermonters whose posts have been deleted and who have been blocked from your page in recent weeks, apparently because they were critical of your support for gun control legislation,” Jay Diaz, an ACLU of Vermont Staff Attorney, said at the time. “As a growing number of federal courts have recognized, these practices are unconstitutional.”