SCOTUS Showdown: 18 States Back NRA Speech-Gun Case Against NY

P. Gardner Goldsmith | November 7, 2023
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The Supreme Court November 3 placed onto its docket the case of “National Rifle Association v. Vullo,” a slow-moving challenge to action taken by a New York state bureaucrat that, according to the NRA, infringed on the group’s ability to speak and engage in financial activity in NY.

According to NRA filings, in 2018, then-NY Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo intimidated financial institutions to distance themselves from the NRA, even as the government claimed that its messages to those financial institutions were part of its “regulatory” role.

Whether that’s a claim to be able to “regulate” people’s interest in supporting the right to keep and bear arms, or to “regulate” the financial institutions makes no moral difference, since no government should be interfering with the right to firearms or the right to voluntary financial exchanges.

But when viewed outside that fundamental moral sphere, in the day-to-day practical realm of “claimed” powers and what is not allowed by the US and NY constitutions, the NY state claim to be able to “regulate” financial institutions and then issue “messages” to them about organizations that are legally operating, but which the state does not like?

That looks a lot like intimidation.

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As Jack Davis reports for Western Journal:

“In the court papers, the NRA said Vullo ‘warned regulated institutions that doing business with Second Amendment advocacy groups posed ‘reputational risk’ of concern to DFS.’

The NRA also said Vullo would not punish banks and insurers for past infractions if they distanced themselves from the NRA while touting penalties against those who did not dump the NRA.”

Sounds kind of like a mafia…

“The result, according to the NRA court filing, was that ‘numerous financial institutions perceived Vullo’s actions as threatening and, therefore, ceased business arrangements with the NRA or refused new ones.’”

Curiously, in September of 2022, the Second Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sided with New York’s Vullo, thus forcing the NRA to appeal to the SCOTUS.

With the move, eighteen state Attorneys General have filed a brief in support of the NRA.

Davis notes that, in the brief, the AGs write:

“The Second Circuit’s decision gives government officials license to financially cripple their political opponents, or otherwise stifle their protected speech—whether those rivals advocate for school choice, abortion rights, religious liberty, environmental protections, or any other politically salient issue.”

Which is a major problem. But it always is a problem with any form of so-called “government regulator” claiming power over peaceful civilian activity.

In theory, the US Constitution and the NY State Constitution are supposed to limit the kinds of activity in which all forms of government can engage, but, generation upon generation have suffered at the hands of government “officials” who don’t pay attention to those “barriers.”

It’s curious that less than half of the AGs for the fifty states have joined in support of the NRA. Davis reports that those participating to help the gun association get heard by the SCOTUS are from Montana, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

But, what of the others? Can they not see that the “state-intimidation-stifles-speech” shoe could be on the other foot, someday?

Can they not see that, hypothetically, one of their preferred left-leaning groups might someday see a more right-leaning government in their state capitol, one which could pull what appears to have been done by Vullo, in NY while Andrew Cuomo was Governor?

Perhaps they don’t care, because, for many political operatives, the principle is not important, the various constitutions are not important. What is important is power – getting it, keeping it, and expanding it.

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Which means that many of them probably like the idea that, if they can get into power, they can intimidate their opponents through threats of increased regulation, and hand favors to those businesses that comply.

Just like a New York mob tale, this seems to be about “kissing the ring.”

Of course, as J.R.R. Tolkien warned in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, the “ring of power” is corruptive, and ought to be shunned and destroyed.

The "National Rifle Association v. Vullo" case is expected to be heard early next year. Meanwhile, this NY government will continue to shower tax cash on lawyers as they massage the legal problem they appear to have created in their zeal to virtue-signal on weapons. That would be the... state of New York, which hosts numerous weapons contractors, and which will continue to benefit financially from having those weapons-makers located there.

Sure is nice to see how consistent the NY government is in its opposition to the spread of arms.

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