top of page


NRA Files Opening Brief with the U.S. Supreme Court

January 9, 2024 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) today filed its opening brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, outlining the legal arguments in its First Amendment case, National Rifle Association of America v. Maria T. Vullo. The case, which is one of the most closely watched First Amendment lawsuits in the nation, was granted certiorari by the Supreme Court in November 2023. 

In its brief, the NRA writes that government officials "may of course express their opinions without violating the First Amendment. If Vullo had written an op-ed criticizing the NRA, she would not have violated the First Amendment. Likewise, had Vullo merely informed regulated entities about the legal requirements pertaining to affinity insurance programs, she would not have violated the First Amendment."

The brief continues, "But Vullo did nothing of the sort. Instead, motivated by her avowed antipathy toward the NRA’s political views, she invoked her unparalleled authority over the trillion-dollar New York financial services industry to coerce banks and insurance companies to blacklist the NRA, offering a blend of threats and inducements expressly designed to penalize the NRA for its political advocacy. That course of conduct violated the First Amendment."

In a May 2018 lawsuit, the NRA alleged that Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and conspired to use the regulatory power of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) to “financially blacklist” the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association to suppress its pro-Second Amendment speech. The NRA argues that Vullo’s actions as DFS superintendent were meant to silence the NRA – using “guidance letters,” backroom threats, and other measures to cause financial institutions to “drop” the Association.

The NRA's First Amendment claims withstood multiple motions to dismiss. But in 2022, after Vullo appealed the trial court’s ruling, the Second Circuit struck down the NRA’s claims. The court ruled that in an era of “enhanced corporate social responsibility,” it was reasonable for New York's financial regulator to warn banks and insurance companies against doing business with pro-gun groups based on the supposed “social backlash” against those groups’ advocacy. The court also ruled that Vullo’s guidance – written on her official letterhead and invoking her regulatory powers – was not a directive to the institutions she regulated, but rather a mere expression of her political preferences.

On February 7, 2023, the NRA petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the Second Circuit decision. On November 3, 2023, the Court granted review on the following question: Does the First Amendment allow a government regulator to threaten regulated entities with adverse regulatory actions if they do business with a controversial speaker, as a consequence of (a) the government’s own hostility to the speaker’s viewpoint or (b) a perceived “general backlash” against the speaker’s advocacy?

In its opening brief, the NRA writes, "Vullo’s campaign was expressly predicated on the NRA’s political views, not the deficiencies of a single affinity insurance program, and her actions swept far beyond remediating any infractions that plagued Carry Guard. That is anything but 'legitimate enforcement action'..."

The NRA is represented by Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors partners William A. Brewer III, Sarah B. Rogers and Noah Peters, along with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Legal Director David Cole and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh.

bottom of page