(Bloomberg) -- The National Rifle Association sued New York state officials over what it described as a "blacklisting campaign" targeting companies that try to do business with the group.
The organization filed a complaint Friday in Syracuse federal court accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Financial Services of abuses of regulatory power aimed at stifling the gun-rights advocacy group’s right to free speech.
Earlier this month, the state financial services department fined insurance broker Lockton Cos. $7 million and a unit of Chubb Ltd. $1.3 million over an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard. The agency claimed the program illegally permitted gun owners to receive liability coverage even if they were charged with firearms-related crimes. Carry Guard has been criticized by gun control advocates as “murder insurance.”
In its lawsuit, the NRA said the state’s actions were politically motivated and part of a regulatory campaign to make it "clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA."
“Political differences aside, our client believes the tactics employed by these public officials are aimed to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment right to speak freely about gun-related issues and in defense of the Second Amendment,” William A. Brewer III, a lawyer for the NRA, said in a statement.
The gun-rights group has been notching up legal actions after the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Survivors of the incident, in which 17 people were killed and 14 were injured, have spoken out about their experiences, helping galvanize support for gun-control measures.
After the shooting, Florida raised the age for purchasing guns to 21 from 18. The NRA sued claiming the law violates Second Amendment rights. The case is pending.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that the organization’s New York lawsuit "is a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns."
"While the NRA ignores students across the nation who are saying enough is enough, New York is leading the way with the toughest and smartest gun-safety laws in the country," Cuomo said. "I am proud of my ’F’ rating from the NRA, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep New Yorkers safe."
Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said in a statement that her department properly "addressed the unlicensed and unlawful activity connected with the NRA’s Carry Guard program."
"The department will not stand down from its mandate to enforce New York law," Vullo said.
The NRA claims it suffered "tens of millions of dollars" in damages.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is a donor to groups that support gun control, including Everytown for Gun Safety.)
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