New Jersey insurance regulators have launched an investigation of gun-owner policies promoted by the National Rifle Association, alleging that they are not licensed in the state.
In a statement released Tuesday night, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state Department of Banking and Insurance is investigating the marketing and sale of the insurance policies.
Under scrutiny are Lockton Affinity of Overland Park, Kansas, which has been selling policies under its “Carry Guard Program,” and Illinois Union, a subsidiary of the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., for its role as the underwriter of the insurance policies, according to the release.
The NRA has denied wrongdoing, while Lockton has vowed to work with state regulators on the issues raised.
The move by New Jersey comes less than a month after the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo began taking steps to block the sale of the policies in that state, and to start levying fines on the companies.
Cuomo has written a letter to governors from around the country, asking them to take similar measures.
“In New York, we refuse to be beholden to the NRA or allow such a reckless and illegal program that puts lives at risk. Too many lives have been lost to guns in this country, including those lost in more than 200 mass shootings this year alone, to let the NRA continue to market illegal products that promote violence,” Cuomo said in his letter. “Upon discovering the breach of our laws, we issued civil violations that immediately ended the sale of these unlawful products.”
The NRA has filed a lawsuit against New York, alleging that the Cuomo administration is attempting to force the gun-rights advocacy group into insolvency.
New Jersey DOBI Commissioner Marlene Caride also issued a statement.
“New Jersey law requires insurance companies selling to residents within the state to comply with specific requirements,” she said. “The department has reviewed findings by the New York Department of Financial Services associated with the marketing and sale of Carry Guard insurance in New York and is examining the marketing and sale of this product in New Jersey to determine if, and to what extent, this activity violated state insurance laws.”
DOBI said it has contacted both Lockton and Illinois Union. A preliminary investigation by DOBI found that Lockton marketed and sold Carry Guard insurance to New Jersey residents, and that coverage remains in effect in the state, according to the release.
Among the findings by New York was that the NRA, though it lacked a license from the New York Department of Financial Services to conduct insurance business in that state, actively marketed and solicited for the Carry Guard program through a website, email, and direct mail, among other channels.
The NRA is not licensed to sell insurance in New Jersey, regulators said.
The statement said the NRA’s Carry Guard insurance program is advertised as personal firearms liability insurance, which would provide coverage for self-defense for those who lawfully carry firearms and their families, including protection against civil liability, the cost to defend against civil and criminal legal actions, and immediate access to attorney referrals. The coverage is advertised as including supplementary payments as needed for bail, criminal defense legal retainer fees, and other costs, the release said.
Dean Davison, a spokesman for Lockton Affinity, issued a statement: “Lockton Affinity has received an inquiry from the state of New Jersey. We take compliance matters seriously and will work with state regulators to address any concerns. Lockton has been in business for more than 50 years and our commitment to regulatory compliance and doing what’s best for our clients is unwavering.”
An attorney for the NRA, William Brewer III, commented on behalf of the NRA.
“The NRA acted appropriately at all times,” said Brewer, of Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors in Dallas. “Since 2000, the NRA relied upon Lockton and its assurances that the insurance programs in question complied with all applicable state regulations.
“To the extent there are questions about Carry Guard being sold as a lawful self-defense insurance program, the NRA relied upon Lockton to administer the program and oversee its availability to New Jersey consumers,” he said.
Illinois Union did not respond to a request for comment.