Free Speech Case Looking Good for NRA

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The NRA isn't a lot of people's favorite organization on the planet. That includes people like the ACLU and the Biden administration. And yet, both are on the group's side in its fight against the free speech attack carried out by a New York official.


That ought to tell you something.

Yet that doesn't mean an action won't be ruled as constitutional. The Court has done some weird things in the past and there's no reason to believe they won't rule weirdly in the future, so the simple fact of strange bedfellows having been made isn't really enough to suggest how they'll rule.

But there are other indicators and yes, those look good.

The Supreme Court on Monday appeared sympathetic to the National Rifle Association’s claim that a New York official violated the group’s right to freedom of speech when she urged banks and insurance companies that worked with the NRA to cut ties with the group. During just over an hour of oral arguments, justices of all ideological stripes seemed inclined to allow the NRA’s claim to go forward. 


One question with which the justices grappled was which of Vullo’s actions, if any, are relevant to the NRA’s First Amendment claim. The Biden administration had urged the justices to focus on the group’s allegations about Vullo’s 2018 meetings with Lloyd’s of London, at which Vullo supposedly pressured the company to end its relationship with the NRA.

Cole encouraged the justices to take a broader lens, contending that “the most significant harm to the NRA is that the DFS continues to maintain on its website these guidance letters, which essentially put a scarlet letter on the NRA with respect to every bank and every insurance company in New York. These should be taken down,” Cole insisted.

Katyal took the opposite stance. He agreed that the court “should absolutely look at … all the different conduct together.” But, he contended, none of the different pieces, standing alone, added up to “something that’s coercive. And together, they don’t add up to something that’s coercive.”

Cole also pushed back against Vullo’s contention that the case should be dismissed because the Supreme Court was not reviewing the lower court’s conclusion that Vullo was entitled to qualified immunity, so that any ruling on whether Vullo had violated the group’s First Amendment rights would not affect the lower court’s judgment. If the court reverses the ruling by the court of appeals and holds that the NRA has stated a First Amendment claim, Cole reasoned, it should send the case back to the 2nd Circuit to reconsider its ruling on qualified immunity, which Vullo has said is “inextricably intertwined” with the First Amendment question.


As Cam reported in his VIP piece on Monday, Vullo didn't just allert Lloyd's of London that they were selling insurance that was illegal in the state of New York. She coerced them into cutting off the NRA entirely by telling them she'd overlook other issues if they did that.

She even made it clear it wasn't about insurance regulation but her desire to do whatever she could to impact our right to keep and bear arms.

"That's a nice insurance company you have there. It would be a shame if something happened to it."

It's really not hard to see why the justices might well favor the NRA in this. My concern is that at least one justice seems to think that the First Amendment's protection of free speech is a bad thing.

Of course, that is the entire point of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights as a whole. It's meant to restrain the government because if the government can restrict rights to any degree, then those rights are really just privileges that we should thank our betters for.

Yet this is the same argument we see against the Second Amendment. It's the entire reason Gavin Newsom is trying to push his own gun control amendment at the moment, because the Second Amendment doesn't allow gun control.


With this case, the issue for me is that this should be a 9-0 decision. There shouldn't be anything to discuss, anything to debate. Yet we can't even hope for a unanimous decision, though I could well be wrong.

I hope I am.

When this is all said and done, the verdict will be interesting, to say the least.

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