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 selling in WA State. This follows an investigation initiated April 15, 2019. Over the following months, the insurance commissioner ignored concerted attempts to show the WA Office of Insurance Commissioner the factual evidence that the Network is not providing insurance.
We are now in the appeal process–starting with our filing requesting a stay of the cease and desist order (denied June 30, 2020), first with the insurance commissioner’s own hearing officer, and now into the courts to seek judicial review finding that our assistance to members in no way matches the WA State definition of insurance. Worried that the decks are stacked in favor of the State of WA, especially early in the legal process, we have for nearly a year enforced a corporate austerity program, saving every available dollar and setting it aside to pay legal teams to take our fight into the courts if necessary. That fight has now become necessary.
Important: Please be aware that the costs of fighting this battle are entirely separate and will not be drawn from the Network’s Legal Defense Fund, which is held back for the defense of members after self defense. That Fund is entirely for defense of members during the legal aftermath of self defense and it will not be used to fight this regulatory over reach.
We have been in regular contact with Network members explaining this situation as it unfolded. Many members have asked if they could contribute financially to the fight, out of their profound belief that this organization must survive to protect our Network family members in the legal aftermath that follows self defense.
If you share that belief, https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/join/fight-against-wa-insurance-commissioner provides options for online donations, or we welcome your phone call at 360-978-5200 Monday-Friday 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Checks and money orders, marked for “insurance commission fight” are welcome at ACLDNetwork, P O Box 400, Onalaska, WA 98570. Thank you for your wish to help! It is so very heartening to have you standing beside us in such a material way as we undertake this battle.
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:
As to the above actions, the NRA, USCCA, US Law Shield and Firearms Legal Protection all agreed to accept the fines and quit doing business in Washington State. Along with the Network, only CCW Safe is fighting the OIC.
We fight the battle in Washington with all the strength we can 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 affect has been proven in the rulings of NJ, NY and now WA that traditional insurance (as sold by USCCA, the NRA and others) to defend against the legal aftermath of self defense is “against public policy.”
We are determined to stop the over-reaching regulatory arm of government with this fight, showing beyond any doubt that the legal definition of insurance in no way covers the Network’s way of assisting members after self defense. A win in Washington, no matter how long it takes, is essential in discouraging other regulation-happy bureaucrats from trying the same from other states.