UPDATE: USCCA gave TTAG the following statement:
USCCA’s primary focus is empowering America’s responsible protectors to defend the people they love. In an effort to continue to support that mission, the USCCA has reached a resolution with the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner’s Office. The USCCA is currently not selling any new USCCA memberships in Washington.
The USCCA is diligently working on a membership delivery structure that is acceptable to the Washington Insurance Commissioner’s Office. The USCCA is hopeful that in the very near future we will be able to present the Washington Insurance Commissioner’s Office with a membership delivery model that will be acceptable so that citizens of the State of Washington can enjoy the many benefits of USCCA membership.
USCCA’s agreement with the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner’s office does not have any impact on USCCA members outside of the State of Washington.
One of the many ploys that the anti-gun community likes to use when attacking civilian gun ownership is claiming that gun owners should be required to carry insurance policies to cover any damage that may result from the use of their firearms.
While no state has required such policies (yet), premiums for that kind of coverage would increase the cost of gun ownership, reducing the number of people who can afford to keep and bear arms (which is, of course, the point).
There’s a pretty good argument that such a requirement would be unconstitutional — could you imagine the response to proposing that individuals carry insurance to cover the exercise of their First Amendment rights in case they should engage in slander or incite a riot?
A different kind of insurance that many gun owners willingly purchase covers the legal costs of defense if they should be forced to use a firearm to protect themselves or a family member. But that kind of insurance has come under attack in states like New York and Washington State (case in point: the NRA’s dearly departed Carry Guard program).
Anti-gun politicians in those jurisdictions love to call this kind of coverage “murder insurance,” claiming that it somehow encourages individuals to open fire with impunity. Or something.
Washington State hit the NRA hard for selling Carry Guard there, deeming the program illegal. Now the state’s insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler, has targeted USCCA and has issued the following press release . . .
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has fined United States Concealed Carry Association, Inc., (USCCA) for violating Washington state laws by selling unauthorized insurance that illegally covers defense costs for criminal shootings.
“We made two things very clear to USCCA,” Kreidler said. “Insurers must be authorized to sell in our state, and policies can’t cover illegal activity. These law violations are fixable, if the company wishes to do business in Washington state.”
USCCA agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and $5,457 in unpaid premium taxes, penalties and interest and to continue not selling the insurance in Washington state. Fines assessed by Kreidler are deposited in the state’s general fund to pay for state services.
USCCA sold insurance to 1,675 Washington state consumers from Dec. 1, 2018 through Jan. 30, 2019, collecting $241,000. USCCA has paid no claims in Washington state.
USCCA bundled the insurance product, called a protection plan, with membership in its association. The protection plan provides payments for criminal defense costs if a member is charged with a crime related to the intentional use of a firearm or other weapon. Washington state law doesn’t allow a person to buy insurance for their own intentional criminal activity.
Additionally, USCCA was illegally acting as an insurer. Insurance companies must be authorized to sell policies in Washington state, and their policies must be reviewed and approved by Kreidler’s office.
USCCA voluntarily stopped selling membership and the protection plan in Washington on Jan. 30, 2019.
The protection plan says it excludes coverage for “criminal acts” and only covers “acts of self-defense.” However, the policies had no mechanism to make sure that payments made to policyholders who were later convicted of a crime were repaid to the insurer.
USCCA could sell insurance legally in Washington by changing its policies to not insure criminal activity, and either becoming a registered insurer or by placing insurance business through surplus lines brokers.
In January 2019, Kreidler fined one insurer and one insurance agency $177,000 for selling 811 similar illegal liability policies in Washington state under the National Rifle Association’s Carry Guard program.
Note that the press release indicates that insurance for “intentional criminal activity” is prohibited in Washington State. That, of course, isn’t why USCCA members purchase the coverage. Evergreen State gun owners — like the rest of USCCA’s customers — purchase the insurance to cover the crushing legal expenses that can result from a defensive gun use. Being subsequently charged by a prosecutor does not constitute “intentional criminal activity.”
Commissioner Kreidler apparently wants to be sure that anyone USCCA defends who is ultimately convicted of a crime pays the insurer back for their defense costs.
As the press release notes, USCCA stopped selling policies in Washington State in January and lays out ways the company can resume doing business there. We’ve asked USCCA for a comment on the fine and whether they intend to jump through the hoops needed to continue to do business in the state, but haven’t received a response yet. We’ll update this post if and when we do.