by Marty Hayes, J.D.
I hope you all are doing well, and if not well, at least okay. Here at the Network we are getting by with all our staff working from home. If you need to contact Gila or me, best way is by e-mail, as the main phone line is answered by William from his kitchen table. We hope to bring everyone back to the home office later in May and get things back to normal.
In the midst of all this doom and gloom, we here at the Network received a nice little pick-me-up (and before you get the wrong idea, I am not talking about day-drinking)! Yesterday a member sent us a little gift with her membership renewal, in the form of a joke book.
Along with the book, came a note:
“Dear Marty and Gila:
Thank you for caring enough to create and continue the ACLDN. I am sure that, sometimes, it is a sacrifice on your part. Please know that there are many of us who greatly appreciate your generosity!
On the days when you are bumping up against frustration, or just plain tired, perhaps this will bring a smile to your heart. And please know, that you can always text me a prayer request – with something specific or no details at all – and I will stop and pray for you. Thanks for being there.
If that doesn’t bring a warm feeling to your heart, I don’t know what will. I know both Gila and I appreciate those kind words. Thank you, Alicia.
News About the Fight with the WA Insurance Commissioner
There is no new news, we are just waiting for the slow state bureaucracy to ramp up for the legal battle. We are chomping at the bit to bring our legal “A” game to the state, and while we would prefer to have the case dismissed, we are also looking forward to establishing some valuable case law in this important and new area of the law.
There are basically two issues that need to be settled. One is not our issue, but it is the matter that started this whole fight long before the insurance commissioner got around to looking at us and it remains unresolved. Is it against “public policy” to insure a lawfully armed citizen against the loss of money IF the armed citizen was found to be culpable in tort for battery, assault or wrongful death?
This is the issue which started the anti-gun politicians’ movement to attack the NRA and their ill-fated Carry Guard insurance program, and it is an interesting question. Should one be able to buy insurance to protect him- or herself from committing a tort when ostensibly using force in self defense? That is the first part of the question.
The second part of the question that should be asked is this: If you were the person harmed, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to collect from an insurance company to help make you whole if, in fact, the armed citizen did screw up? Of course, there are no absolutes, and just because one is found not guilty of a crime doesn’t mean a civil jury would not find against that person in a civil suit. Of the six organizations which have been investigated by the WA Insurance Commissioner, the Network is the only company that does not, and never has offered this type of insurance. I have written about this issue before at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/learn/support-plan-comparison.
The next question that should be addressed, asks, What is wrong with having a membership in an organization that will provide a legal defense for you, if you are prosecuted or sued after an act of self defense? This is what the Network does, and to some extent, although through other means, it is similar to what the other five banned organizations also offered. It is interesting to note, that unlike the other cases the OIC has investigated, when the Office of Insurance Commissioner issued their Cease and Desist Order against the Network, they did NOT state any claim that we were violating public policy by providing for the legal defense, while in all the other cases, the insurance commissioner did make that claim. Perhaps our legal argument to them at least made some difference on that issue. Maybe someday we will find out.
The WA Office of Insurance Commissioner’s primary claim against us is that we are selling an insurance product, which we have steadfastly denied from day one by contrasting the Network’s assistance to members against the law that defines insurance. That is why I really get bugged when people talk about us in the terms of “self-defense insurance” and “coverage.” If you want to get on my bad side, just use these terms when communicating with us!
It has basically become my full-time job to do legal research and legal analysis of all the characteristics of the Network that differ from the legal definition of insurance, case law that discusses what constitutes insurance, and the approach the WA OIC took in regulating our competitors, and then sharing that work product with our current law firm. This brings me to the next item, the expense of fighting the insurance commissioner, because in Washington State Law, there is no statutory right for us to recoup these legal fees when assaulted by the Insurance Commissioner (I used this term because it is exactly how I feel).
Knowing that this fight is expensive, many Network members from Washington State and even some from outside Washington, have asked us if they can donate money to this fight. I am humbled by these donors and their willingness to join in our fight. It emphasizes that many, many members believe that they are truly part of this organization, and not just a customer.
With this in mind, and because of these requests from members, we set up a link on our website to accept donations at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/join/fight-against-wa-insurance-commissioner. Please understand that I am not asking for financial help. We have set aside money for this fight. We put up the donation link because so many people expressed how much they wanted to help. That expression of solidarity coupled with the very material assistance through the donations is so much appreciated – you cannot know how much it encourages us.
We’ve also appreciated another type of expression of solidarity: hundreds of Network members have written to WA Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to ask him why he is attacking the Network. From what people are telling me, this is the commissioner’s canned response:
“Dear Mr. (name omitted),
Thank you for contacting the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner. My understanding is that in exchange for a membership fee, Armed Citizen indemnifies their members against attorney fees, bail bonds, and additional legal expenses when a member uses force in self defense. The Insurance Commissioner found that this membership does constitute insurance. As Armed Citizen is not authorized to sell insurance, they have been asked to stop selling in Washington state.
If you wish to purchase an insurance policy specific to firearms, you might consider contacting an independent insurance broker to see if they are able to help you locate coverage.”
If you are one of the hundreds of members who received this message, you should be angry about the insurance commissioner’s intellectual dishonesty.
In the canned response, the insurance commissioner advises those asking him to reconsider his charges against the Network to ask an independent insurance broker to sell them insurance if they want firearm insurance. I am at a loss to know how they are supposed to do that. I know of no insurance product sold in WA that does what we do, so when the Washington Insurance Commissioner makes the suggestion that if you want to purchase an insurance policy specific to firearms to contact an independent insurance broker, he’s suggesting you do the impossible. Of course, this tips his hand, as he discusses insurance specific to firearms.
Sure, you can buy a policy specific to firearms, but that is insurance against the theft of the firearm, not to help out after use of any type of force in self defense. It is sad that this elected official cannot simply answer your questions honestly and thoroughly. Enough said about this.
Writing this today reminds me I still have some legal work to do in support of our case. I had better get to it. Please accept my sincere thanks for all of the support and encouragement you have given us, whether it was simply writing us a note, writing to the insurance commissioner or donating money to fight the fight.
A Final Announcement
I just remembered that there is one last thing to discuss this month…I will be working with Massad Ayoob in teaching two Use of Deadly Force Instructor courses this year. This course is excellent for the advanced student, firearms instructor, expert witness or attorney. There are discounts for Network members, too! The first course is July 6 thru 10, in Phoenix. Here is the link: https://activeselfprotection.com/shop/use-of-deadly-force-instructor-with-massad-ayoob-and-mag-in-phoenix-az-july-6-10-2020/.
The second one is late in the year, held at the home of the Network and Firearms Academy of Seattle. See https://firearmsacademy.com/guest-instructors/deadly-force-instructor-washington for details.
It looks like both these classes will have sufficient enrollment to be held, so if you have been registered for one of the last couple of years’ classes that did not happen, now is your chance.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.