Washington State Insurance Commissioner
Defending the Rights of Like-Minded Americans to Assist One Another
On March 26, 2020, the Washington State Insurance Commissioner (OIC) issued the Network an order to cease and desist enrolling new members in WA State. This followed an investigation initiated April 15, 2019. During those months, the insurance commissioner ignored concerted attempts to show his office the factual evidence that the Network is not providing insurance.
We had requested a stay of the cease and desist order (denied by the WA OIC's hearing officer June 30, 2020) as part of a lengthy and concerted effort to resolve this issue first with the insurance commissioner’s own hearing officer. (See November 23, 2020 Press Release) We next sought but lost a judicial review in the Lewis County Superior Court May 13, 2022 and took our issue to the WA Court of Appeals March 13, 2023 where the Court supported the Insurance Commssioner. We petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review, but were denied.
We have been in regular contact with Network members explaining this situation as it unfolded, but questions still arise. We also answer inquiries from non-members who would like to join but are denied. In pursuit of transparancy, we offer a history of this fight.
The History of this Fight
On April 15, 2019 the Washington Office of Insurance Commissioner notified the Network that the WA OIC had opened an investigation into the Network providing “coverage for criminal acts,” and was selling insurance without a certificate of authority from the WA OIC. The investigation was part of their effort to eradicate insurance programs selling post-self defense incident insurance – a political initiative that started in 2018 that rallied around NY Gov. Cuomo’s infamous speeches about “murder insurance.”
Our legal team responded to the April 15 notice that, since the Network’s assistance to members has none of the components cited by Washington State’s law defining insurance, we were not subject to regulation by the insurance commissioner. Undeterred, the WA OIC subsequently issued a subpoena for documents for their investigation. Our Network President Marty Hayes wrote about the steps along the process of the investigation at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/august-2019-presidents-message and again in September, October, November, December 2019 and January 2020 columns at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/our-journal/2020-journals. In brief, our legal teams continued for nearly a year to intercede with the insurance commissioner, while concurrently studying the laws and related cases and judgment to solidify our defense that the Network is not insurance.
In February and March of 2020, the Network and its friends in the WA State Senate and WA State House of Representatives worked to pass legislation specifically recognizing the Network’s right to serve WA members (discussed at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/february-2020-presidents-message and https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/march-2020-presidents-message) but in both legislative chambers, the bills were blocked in committee and were not allowed to go out to the floor for a vote of all the WA senators and representatives.
On March 26, 2020, the Network was served with a cease and desist order, mandating that no WA memberships be renewed and no new WA members be enrolled. We were not prohibited from providing Network assistance to Washingtonians with existing memberships. The order did not affect memberships in any other state, although members are right to be concerned that if the State of WA prevails against the Network, other anti-gun states may follow.
Ten weeks later, the Office of Insurance Commissioner changed their restriction in a court filing in which they stated that the Network is NOT prohibited from renewing Washington State Network memberships that were purchased before the effective date of the cease and desist order. We had given expiring Washington memberships complimentary extensions and when we received the new court filing, we immediately notified those members that we were once again allowed to accept their renewal dues.
We remain prohibited from accepting Washington residents as new Network members, and continue to fight that restriction. Our legal team has grown to include an experienced law firm that has defended similar cases, and we remain optimistic in their ability to eventually show a judge the truth that the Network’s assistance to members is not insurance and is not illegal.
The definition of insurance in Washington State is at the heart of those arguments. The law defines insurance as “a contract whereby one undertakes to indemnify another or pay a specified amount upon a determinable contingency.”
In our case, (1) we have no written contract of insurance with our members, instead our members simply join a membership organization. (2) We indemnify no one. (3) We do not pay any specified amounts to anyone (4) and the act of self defense is not a determinable contingency, but instead, a voluntary, intentional act.
Make no mistake, the OIC’s action is politically motivated: it is anti-gun, not focused on consumer protection. In our 12 years in business, the OIC never received a complaint involving the Network, and while they had us under investigation for 11 months, we operated without restriction.
To understand the bigger picture in WA State, use the links below to read the press releases regarding the OIC’s action against the NRA and USCCA.
In addition to the NRA, USCCA and the Network, the WA insurance commissioner has also taken action against several other similar products. See below:
The Network chose to fight the battle in Washington with all the strength we could muster, knowing full well that anti-liberty states follow the lead of like-minded politicians. Although this is not directly parallel to our argument (since our issue is the fact that the Network’s assistance to members does not constitute insurance), the domino effect has been proven in the rulings of NJ, NY and now WA that traditional insurance (as sold by USCCA and others) to defend against the legal aftermath of self defense is “against public policy.”