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Court Mulls Whether NY Violated NRA 1st Amendment Rights

The Supreme Court is considering whether a New York financial regulator violated the National Rifle Association’s First Amendment rights by forcing insurance companies to disassociate themselves from the gun rights group after the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Justice Samuel Alito summed up the issue in a hearing Monday: “How do you define when it goes too far along that line?” he asked, explaining that he sought clarity on the spectrum between persuasion and coercion, reports Courthouse News Service.  The NRA's American Civil Liberties Union attorneys couldn't eliminate the gray between the two extremes, but said regulator Maria Vullo’s conduct was at the coercion end of the spectrum. 

At the heart of the case is the former NRA insurance program Carry Guard, which covered losses NRA members incurred by using their firearms, including criminal defense costs. The program covered cases of excessive force, even if members acted with criminal intent. Vullo, then superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, launched a probe in 2017 that determined Carry Guard violated the state’s insurance law by covering illegal conduct. Soon after, Chubb Ltd. and Lockton Companies LLC, the underwriter and administrator of the program, suspended it. After the Feb. 18, 2018, Parkland shooting — where 17 students and staff were shot and killed — Vullo and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took aim at the NRA, publicly urging companies throughout the state to cut ties with the gun rights group. The justices seemed ready to accept that Vullo had wrongfully coerced one such group, Lloyd’s of London — a third-party insurance company that underwrote at least 11 other similar affinity insurance programs — into disassociating itself.


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