by Marty Hayes, J.D
Update on WA Insurance Commissioner
Despite 10 months having passed since it started, the Network still does not have a resolution to the investigation the Washington State Office of Insurance Commissioner instigated against us. We have gone through two different law firms, spent over $10,000 on attorney fees, and we are still not sure what we are facing in the future. The commissioner has pretty much shut down competitors who sold self-defense insurance products here in WA State, and now that I have a deep understanding of the commissioner’s arguments combined with the wordage of the WA insurance statute, I can see where they have cause for their actions against insurance plans.
I am also more convinced than ever of the validity of the Network’s claim that we are not an insurer and we are not selling an insurance product. Maybe that is what is taking the Office of Insurance Commissioner so long. In any event, although this column has reported regularly on this issue, I think I will go silent on the topic for the immediate future, until we have real resolution to the issue, or until something of which the membership should be made aware breaks.
The Network Goes to Washington
Remember the old movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Jimmy Stewart? I kind of felt that way last month, when, along with several other Network members, I testified at the Washington State Senate regarding a bill written to carve out an exception in the WA insurance code for legal defense membership organizations such as ours. If you missed my report on that proposed legislation last month, it is at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/february-2020-presidents-message.
The week following publication of February’s President’s Message, we did it again, this time testifying in the House of Representatives, speaking in favor of a bill sponsored by State Representative Larry Hoff https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?Year=2020&BillNumber=2367. While we received a much warmer reception in the House Consumer Protection and Finance committee than at the Senate, we ultimately got nothing out of the effort because while it prevailed in the consumer protection committee (see https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2020021106 starting around timestamp 06:00), it didn’t make it any further. The house bill went to the rules committee but was not voted out for a full House hearing. That’s a convenient way of saying the party which opposed the bill didn’t want it going in front of the whole House of Representatives, for fear it might actually pass. Frankly, I think the process sucks, as it boils down to one powerful politician stopping bills by not allowing them out of the rules committee.
Nevertheless, our efforts provided a good exercise in the political process here in Washington State. Until more conservative, pro-gun Senators and Representatives are elected to the state legislature, there is not much we can do legislatively to stop the insurance commissioner’s overreach.
More About Red Flag Laws
A couple days ago, our office staff took a call from a 10-year Network member, who gave up his membership because we do not assist our members if they are “red flagged.” While we were sorry to see him go, we remain solid in our decision to not promise assistance for members who are served Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
This is because, as I was just discussing, the Network is not selling insurance. You see, being served an Extreme Risk Protection Order is an act which is out of your control. Any plan that provides assistance for “an out of your control” action (a contingency) would likely be deemed to be providing “insurance” for that contingency. If we are to remain in business and continue to pay our members’ legal fees after self defense, we must not expand into services that constitute insurance coverage. We have developed our business model around the fact that the Network voluntarily provides assistance to members after the member has voluntarily and intentionally acted in legitimate self defense.
This discussion naturally raises a question we’re frequently asked: “So, if we voluntarily provide assistance to members, how do our members know they can count on us to assist them after a self-defense incident?”
It’s all about trust. Our members either trust us to keep our word, or if they do not trust us, at least hope we will. We have no signed contract, just our list of member benefits and our proven history of having, since 2008, assisted 23 members who had to defend themselves. Nonetheless, having said all that, we would be in a sorry state of affairs if we failed to keep our promise to provide assistance after a legitimate act of self defense, because word would spread like wild-fire that we were not doing what we said we would do. In addition, the Network has been a member of the Better Business Bureau for six years. We have never had a complaint filed against us, hence our A+ rating.
This is the age of the Internet and instant communications, and we live and die by our reputation. In fact, we have made our livelihood by serving members who choose the Network after taking a careful look at all the different companies and we continue to grow, although we don’t spend a lot on advertising.
If our way of doing business is not to someone’s liking, I understand. Nefarious, cheating liars and other unscrupulous people like to take advantage of people and play upon their fears until they buy out of desperation. Instead, I want to be sure that each Network member wants to be here and trusts us to keep our word.
Marty goes to Force Science
I spent last week taking a Force Science Analysist Certification Course https://www.forcescience.org/training/certification/. Next month, I will be writing the lead article for this online journal about what Force Science has to offer the private sector. It is an interesting topic, since they are primarily involved with law enforcement use of force issues.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.