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The National Rifle Association (NRA) secured a significant First Amendment victory at the Supreme Court, a ruling that carries broad implications for advocacy groups nationwide.

The NRA had filed a lawsuit against Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. They accused her of leveraging her position to coerce insurance companies and banks into severing ties with the NRA. This campaign against the NRA began in the aftermath of the 2018 Parkland School shooting.

Vullo, a former member of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, purportedly targeted the NRA’s policies, claiming they were illegal under New York law. The NRA alleged that during a meeting with Lloyd’s of London, Vullo intimated she would overlook other violations if Lloyd’s aided her campaign against gun advocacy groups.

With the Supreme Court’s decision, the NRA’s First Amendment lawsuit against Vullo will proceed. The court, typically divided, issued a unanimous decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, known for her liberal views, emphasized that government officials cannot use their authority to coerce private entities into punishing or suppressing disfavored views.

“Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors,” Sotomayor wrote. “Ultimately, the critical takeaway is that the First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech.”

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch and liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson also concurred with the decision, highlighting the nuanced nature of such cases. Jackson, in her concurrence, stressed that these situations heavily depend on the specific facts involved, such as who is being coerced and the nature of the coercion.

The “illegal policies” Vullo targeted included “Carry Guard,” an NRA-offered insurance program underwritten by Lloyd’s and Chubb Limited. Critics dubbed it “murder insurance” because it covered personal-injury and criminal-defense costs related to licensed firearm use.

In response to the Parkland shooting, New York intensified its enforcement of insurance laws, pushing insurers towards consent decrees where they admitted to violations, agreed not to provide any NRA-endorsed insurance programs, and paid hefty fines. Vullo, backed by Governor Cuomo, issued “guidance letters” urging insurers and banks to cut ties with the NRA, citing “public health and safety” concerns.

The Supreme Court also heard another pivotal First Amendment case regarding social media companies censoring “misinformation” during the pandemic, with a decision expected by late June. This ongoing examination of First Amendment rights highlights the critical balance between regulation and free speech in today’s political climate.