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US Supreme Court sides with NRA in free speech ruling that curbs government pressure campaigns

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By John Fritze | CNN

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously backed the National Rifle Association in a First Amendment ruling that could make it harder for state regulators to pressure advocacy groups.

The decision means the NRA may continue to pursue its lawsuit against a New York official who urged banks and insurance companies to cut ties with the gun rights group following the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 people dead.

“Ultimately, the critical takeaway is that the First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech, directly or (as alleged here) through private intermediaries,” the opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

The NRA claimed that Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, not only leaned on insurance companies to part ways with the gun lobby but threatened enforcement actions against those firms if they failed to comply.

At the center of the dispute was a meeting Vullo had with insurance market Lloyd’s of London in 2018 in which the NRA claims she offered to not prosecute other violations as long as the company helped with the campaign against gun groups. Vullo tried to wave off the significance of the meeting, arguing in part that the NRA’s allegations of what took place were not specific.

Vullo, who served in Democratic former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, said her enforcement targeted an insurance product that is illegal in New York: third-party policies sold through the NRA that cover personal injury and criminal defense costs following the use of a firearm. Critics dubbed the policies “murder insurance.”



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