Washington state deems NRA-branded insurance program illegal

Washington state deems NRA-branded insurance program illegal
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Washington state on Tuesday deemed an insurance program branded by the National Rifle Association (NRA) illegal.

Washington’s insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement that he was seeking $177,000 in fines from two companies who sold the now-banned NRA “Carry Guard” policies in the state. 

The Carry Guard program offers liability coverage to people who fire a gun and has been branded as a self-defense policy by the NRA. Policyholders are given money up front to cover costs and expenses related to criminal defense, even if the insured later pleads guilty or is convicted of a crime, Kreidler said in the statement.

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“NRA Carry Guard teaches you how to avoid and de-escalate conflict situations,” the NRA Carry Guard website reads. “But should you ever have to defend your life, you could face serious criminal or civil liability—even when you are completely innocent. In those devastating circumstances, NRA Carry Guard provides access to important resources.”

Washington state law prohibits insurance that covers criminal activity.

"When it comes to insurance products associated with the NRA, it’s buyer beware,” Kreidler said in his 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.”

There were 811 NRA Carry Guard policies sold in Washington since they became available in April 2017, worth an estimated $260,000 in premiums.

Kriedler’s office said 255 customers canceled their policies and no claims have ever been made in the state.

He ordered Illinois Union Insurance Company to stop underwriting policies and said he will fine the organization $102,000 for selling "illegal policies" in the state. Lockton Affinity L.L.C will also be fined $75,000 for managing the policies, according to the statement.

The companies have until Feb. 14 to agree to the fines or demand a hearing. The groups indicated that they will stop selling the policies in October 2019.

In a statement obtained by The Hill, NRA attorney William A. Brewer III said the insurance commissioner recognized that the NRA changed online marketing after a consumer initially complained to Washington regulators. 

“The NRA has acted appropriately at all times, and will continue to advocate for the legal right — and practical ability — of Americans to defend themselves,” Brewer said.

Washington became the second state to ban NRA-branded insurance, following a move from New York last year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) encouraged other states to consider banning the insurance and told financial institutions and insurers not to work with the gun group.

The New York Department of Financial Services then slapped a $1.3 million fine on insurance company, Chubb, and its subsidiary, Illinois Union Insurance Company for underwriting the Carry Guard program.

The NRA alleged in a lawsuit that the decision, along with "threats" by Cuomo, also pressured insurers to drop other policies, causing the organization to face financial danger. 

— Updated 2:58 p.m.