Operation Choke Point left a sour taste in conservatives’ mouth. Members of the constitutionally protected Second Amendment industry and their affiliates became targets of government aggression and overregulation for no reason besides helping Americans exercise their civil rights. While the federal implementation of this program ended over a year ago, New York lawmakers are using the same tricks to strangle out the gun industry in their state.
It seems New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) learned a lesson from his friend, Cuban dictator Raul Castro: people do not deserve the ability to protect themselves. But now, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is fighting back.
In its July 20 amended complaint, the NRA accuses Governor Cuomo of using the regulatory powers of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) to force financial institutions and insurance companies to sever ties with the NRA. The defendants, in this case, are Governor Cuomo, the DFS, and DFS Superintendent Maria Vullo.
According to the complaint, “To effect their sweeping agenda, Defendants issued public demands that put DFS-regulated institutions on notice to ‘discontinue their arrangements with the NRA’ and other ‘gun promotion organizations’ if they planned to do business in New York. At the same time, Defendants engaged in back-channel communications to reinforce their intended purpose. Simply put, Defendants made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA. As a direct result of this coercion, multiple financial institutions have succumbed to Defendants’ demands and entered into consent orders with DFS that compel them to terminate longstanding, beneficial business relationships with the NRA, both in New York and elsewhere.”
Cuomo’s intentions have been more than clear. Previously, Cuomo has called the NRA a “group of extremists” and claimed enacting stricter gun control laws is “one of the proudest things” he had done.
A significant part of the NRA lawsuit focuses on the NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard, which covers legal expenses for individuals who used a gun in self-defense.
In May, the DFS imposed a $7 million fine on Lockton Companies for administering Carry Guard insurance in New York. The order explains that the NRA does not have permission to sell the insurance within the state and actively worked with Lockton Companies to provide Carry Guard insurance for gun owners, despite Lockton Companies being the primary administrator of the accounts.
Since the filing of the complaint, Cuomo has stated his plan to dismiss the lawsuit which he calls a “frivolous lawsuit to advance its dangerous gun-peddling agenda.”
But the NRA considers this anything but frivolous considering the significant revenue and operating limitations Cuomo’s actions have placed on the organization.
The NRA lawsuit continues, “If the NRA is unable to collect donations from its members, safeguard the assets endowed to it, apply its funds to cover media buys and other expenses integral to its political speech, and obtain basic corporate insurance coverage, it will be unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission.”
Particularly, the NRA discussed how NRA TV would be forced to cease operating without adequate media liability coverage. Cuomo and the DFS have made obtaining such coverage difficult and costly. The NRA depends on financial services and institutions to fulfill its advocacy mission and limiting access to financial resources limits the group’s ability to advocate for policy.
As the lawsuit makes clear, the defendants have attempted to curtail the NRA and its affiliated businesses First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
This case reiterates the importance of the Senate confirming Eric Dreiband to lead the Civil Rights Division as Assistant Attorney General. Dreiband would hold the critical role of enforcing the laws which protect groups like the NRA from unjust and unequal treatment by state officials and could bring civil action against the state for its actions.
The state of New York, led by Governor Cuomo, cannot target the gun industry and the NRA. Apparently Cuomo doesn’t realize there are amendments in the Constitution after the first one.
Perhaps he is taking lessons from his father, the late Mario Cuomo, who once remarked that those who opposed him were like “NRA members and hunters who drink beer and lie to their wives about where they had been all weekend.” Cuomo later called his remarks “inartful.” One wonders if his son will have to make the same statement about his legal action against the NRA.
The reason Operation Chokepoint caused outrage is because it used big government back channels to restrict individual rights, and that cannot be allowed to continue. By making the NRA’s mission impossible to accomplish, Cuomo is restraining every individuals’ constitutional rights.
Natalia Castro is the Public Outreach Coordinator for Americans for Limited Government.