Washington just became the second state to ban NRA-backed insurance, which hands gun owners cash to cover civil and criminal legal fees if they become involved in a shooting.
The NRA’s program, called “Carry Guard,” is marketed as a protection for gun owners who act in self-defense. But officials in Washington state, usually a stronghold for NRA members, have decided that the plans violate a state law that prohibits insurance that protects criminal activity.
“When it comes to insurance products associated with the NRA, it’s buyer beware,” Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement. “The attempt to insure a criminal act is a rip-off for consumers. The policies sold are deceptive and dishonest. I would be remiss as the state’s insurance regulator if I didn’t shut them down.”
The policies cover expenses and costs related to criminal defense for gun owners, even if the insured is convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to a crime, Kreidler explained in a release Tuesday.
In a cease-and-desist order, Kreidler told the Illinois Insurance Company to stop selling its NRA-backed policies to Washington state residents. (The company sold 811 in total since April 2017.) Kreidler also said he’s pursuing fines of $102,000 against the company as well as Lockton Affinity LLC, which acts as a broker between the NRA’s Carry Guard Program and the Illinois Union Insurance Company.
Kreidler sent a similar letter to the NRA last April about four Carry Guard products that he said the organization wasn’t licensed to sell in Washington.
Washington is following in the footsteps of New York State, which has been locked in a legal battle with the NRA after lawmakers banned the group’s firearm liability insurance last May. In court documents, the NRA claimed that New York’s law, spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had inflicted “irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm” on the organization, which may be “unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission” in the future.
“It would be highly unusual for a state to allow an insurance company to reimburse for an illegal activity,” Cuomo said in an interview with CNN last August. “They call it 'murder insurance.'"
Cuomo, who won reelection last November, sent a letter to other governors that urged them to follow his lead and look into the NRA’s insurance policies. Last August, at Cuomo’s behest, New Jersey’s Department of Banking and Insurance announced an investigation into the policies. Washington’s cease and desist order also cited Cuomo’s letter.
Last September, California’s Department of Insurance also issued a cease and desist order that said the NRA wasn’t licensed to sell its insurance product, although the state hasn’t said the insurance, on its face, violates any laws.
The NRA is reportedly experiencing some financial trouble, although the group is notoriously secretive about its finances. The Center for Responsive Politics obtained documents from a third-party financial audit last September that showed plummeting member dues had left the NRA in the red for the second year straight. The group even cut free coffee and water coolers for employees from its headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, which further fueled speculation about its cash flow.
Washington’s decision could be especially hard to swallow, given that the NRA has spent more campaign money there than any other state in recent years.
Cover image: (Photo by Sebastiano Tomada/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)