NRA sues Gov. Cuomo over what it calls blacklisting campaign

The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit Friday against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's financial regulatory agency for what it says is a blacklisting campaign aimed at preventing firms from doing business with the gun owners' group.

The lawsuit filed in federal court for the northern district of New York names the Democratic governor along with the state Department of Financial Services and its superintendent, Maria Vullo, as defendants.

It accuses Cuomo of directing a campaign of "selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats" aimed at depriving the NRA and its members of their First Amendment rights "to speak freely about gun-related issues."

The lawsuit comes after New York state fined insurance broker Lockton Cos. LLC $7 million for underwriting an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard.

In a May 2 news release about the enforcement action, the state financial services department said Carry Guard unlawfully improperly provided insurance coverage for criminal defense for gun owners charged with a crime involving a firearm.

Vullo called the firm's marketing of the Carry Guard policies "an egregious violation of public policy designed to protect all citizens."

Additionally, the department announced Monday that insurance firm Chubb Ltd. and its subsidiary Illinois Union Insurance Company would pay a $1.3 million fine for underwriting the Carry Guard program through Lockton Affinity.

A Lockton representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chubb said in a statement that settling with the state financial services department was the best way to resolve the coverage questions raised by the department.

The company said it provided notice in October 2017 that it was voluntarily terminating its participation nationally in the Carry Guard program.

Cuomo has made gun safety one of his signature issues. He signed a package of gun restrictions after the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, making New York the first state to enact new gun laws after the shootings.

The NRA said in its lawsuit that Cuomo "bears distinct animus toward the NRA."

The lawsuit says Cuomo and the other defendants "have abused their authority in an effort to stifle the NRA's political advocacy and to retaliate against the NRA for the effectiveness of that advocacy."

Cuomo called the lawsuit "a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns."

"In New York, we won't be intimidated by frivolous court actions from a group of lobbyists bent on chipping away at common sense gun safety laws that many responsible gun owners actually support," he said in a statement.