(Adds statement from NRA lawyer)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ramped up pressure on banks and insurers to revisit whether their ties to the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups harm their reputations and the public interest.
Cuomo, a Democrat, noted that some well-known companies, including the insurer MetLife Inc, have ended some business relationships with the NRA after a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Valentine’s Day.
The governor directed New York’s Department of Financial Services to urge state-chartered banks and the more than 1,400 insurers it regulates to review whether their ties to the NRA and similar groups sends the “wrong message” to clients and communities.
“This is not just a matter of reputation, it is a matter of public safety,” Cuomo said in a statement.
The financial services superintendent, Maria Vullo, told banks and insurers in separate letters that “prompt actions” may be needed to manage reputational risks and promote public safety, at a time society “is no longer willing to stand by and wait and witness more tragedies caused by gun violence.”
William Brewer, a lawyer for the NRA, in a statement accused Cuomo and Vullo of abusing the public’s trust by “mounting a blacklisting campaign that seeks to deprive Second Amendment advocates of banking services and insurance coverage in the State of New York.”
In February, MetLife ended a program for NRA members to obtain insurance discounts for boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles, while Chubb Ltd decided to stop underwriting an NRA-branded insurance program for gun owners.
Some companies in other sectors have also shed NRA ties.
Cuomo is running for a third term as governor.
In a recent Siena College poll, he held a 58 percent to 27 percent lead among registered Democrats over the activist and actress Cynthia Nixon, who is trying to appeal to more liberal voters. The poll surveyed 692 registered voters, and had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler