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The Supreme Court has sided with the National Rifle Association (NRA) over a free speech dispute involving a former New York regulator.

In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that the NRA can proceed with its First Amendment claim against Maria Vullo, who previously led the New York Department of Financial Services. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the Court, revived the NRA’s lawsuit alleging that Vullo’s actions in 2017—encouraging banks and insurers to distance themselves from the NRA after the Parkland school shooting—constituted unconstitutional government coercion.


The NRA accused Vullo of overstepping her regulatory authority, claiming that her campaign against the group infringed on their rights to free speech. Although the Supreme Court’s decision allows the NRA’s case to move forward, it doesn’t guarantee a win for the gun rights organization, as it will face higher legal hurdles in future proceedings. Furthermore, the ruling leaves open the possibility that a lower court could still grant Vullo qualified immunity.

Justice Sotomayor emphasized that while Vullo had the right to criticize the NRA and enforce state insurance laws, she crossed a line by using her power to threaten financial institutions in order to suppress the NRA’s advocacy. “Because the complaint plausibly alleges that Vullo did just that, the Court holds that the NRA stated a First Amendment violation,” Sotomayor wrote.

The case saw an unusual alliance between the NRA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which supported the NRA’s position. William A. Brewer III, counsel for the NRA, praised the decision as a landmark victory for free speech. In contrast, Vullo’s attorney, Neal Katyal, expressed disappointment, arguing that the NRA’s claims lacked evidentiary support and that Vullo’s actions were legitimate government speech.


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