NRA says New York 'blacklisting campaign' is driving it out of business

Is the nation's biggest gun-rights group on the ropes?
by Jon Schuppe /  / Updated 
US-POLITICS-GUNS
The logo of the National Rifle Association at an outdoor sports trade show.Dominick Reuter / AFP-Getty Images file

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The heart of the National Rifle Association’s mission is to block the government from taking people’s guns.

Now the Second Amendment advocacy group says the government is trying to put it out of business.

The NRA said in a recent court filing that New York state’s campaign to push insurance companies and banks to cut ties with the organization had already cost it “tens of millions of dollars” this year and could ultimately make it “unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission.”

Unless the courts step in and stop New York, “the NRA will suffer irrevocable loss and irreparable harm if it is unable to acquire insurance or other financial services,” the group said in a complaint submitted in federal court on July 20.

Even before the fight with New York, the NRA was struggling financially, reporting a $45 million budget deficit in 2016 tax documents.

The NRA is also at the center of an FBI investigation into an accused Russian spy's efforts to influence American politics.

And yet the NRA appears to remain at the peak of its powers, able to mobilize its millions of members to support state and federal political candidates who share its gun-rights agenda. It spent heavily on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and now has an avowed supporter in the White House.

But the NRA’s legal arguments make it appear that it is now at the edge of doom.

Its lawsuit accuses New York of a “blacklisting campaign” comprised of “selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats” that “will imminently deprive the NRA of basic bank-depository services, corporate insurance coverage, and other financial services essential to the NRA’s corporate existence and its advocacy mission.”

While the NRA and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have a long history of antagonism, the current dispute relates to a set of actions he began this spring that he invited other states to join on Saturday.

"At a time when Washington has completely abdicated its responsibility to protect the American people, states must lead," Cuomo said. "I am calling on states across the country to join New York to outlaw this absurd program that insures intentional criminal conduct."

Back in April, Cuomo ordered the state Department of Financial Services, which regulates all banks and insurance companies doing business in New York, to urge those companies to reconsider its ties to the NRA. The DFS complied with an industry memo that cited a public and corporate backlash against the NRA following the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida ─ essentially telling them to join the backlash.

Then the DFS went after companies that did business with the NRA, fining Lockton Companies and Chubb for underwriting the NRA’s “Carry Guard” insurance, which the agency said unlawfully covered gun owners’ “acts of intentional wrongdoing.” (The NRA says the program covers members’ expenses “arising out of the lawful self-defense use of a legally possessed firearm.”)

The NRA’s lawsuit accuses New York of a campaign to deprive its members of “their First Amendment rights to speak freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment.”

The NRA did not respond to request for comment, but Cuomo doubled down on his position on Saturday.

"Every time there's a shooting, politicians and the NRA offer American families nothing more than thoughts and prayers," Cuomo said. "If the NRA goes bankrupt because of the State of New York, they'll be in my thoughts and prayers."

The governor then concluded his Saturday statement with a pithy: "I'll see you in court."

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