The National Rifle Association, the largest gun rights group in the U.S., has added some ammunition to its self-defense insurance offering.
At its spring meeting, the group rolled out NRA Carry Guard. At its core, NRA Carry Guard helps cover legal costs if someone faces a lawsuit or criminal charges in connection with a shooting incident that the shooter asserts was in self-defense — for instance, a homeowner shoots and kills an intruder to protect himself, his family, and his property, and then the dead intruder’s family sues the shooter.
NRA Carry Guard is the only insurance, legal assistance and gun-use training program backed by the NRA. A company called Lockton Affinity administers the program’s benefits, with insurance giant Chubb underwriting the insurance component.
Why would a gun owner need a self-defense insurance policy? Many homeowners and renters insurance policies exclude liability coverage for acts of self-defense, and none of these policies typically cover legal costs in criminal cases. Keep in mind, too, that self-defense insurance isn’t available in every state.
“An armed encounter is likely to be the most stressful moment of someone’s life,” the NRA Carry Guard website says. “We can do our best to avoid trouble, but bad things sometimes happen to good people. That’s why right behind your firearm, your second most important protection is a rock-solid carry policy.”
Only 259 gun-related killings that were ruled self-defense occurred in the U.S. in 2012, according to the Los Angeles Times. That’s compared with 8,342 gun-related killings in 2012 that were judged to be crimes.
Peter Kochenburger, deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut, wonders whether some people who buy self-defense insurance are “grossly” overestimating the risk of being at the center of a self-defense shooting.
“How much of this is being sold on fear rather than actual statistics, actual likelihood? I’d like to know the answer to that,” Kochenburger says.
Whatever the answer, Kochenburger says it “doesn’t mean the product itself has no value.”
According to The Trace, a nonprofit journalism website, insurance for gun owners “has gained traction as self-defense shootings have come under the media spotlight.”
The NRA endorsed self-defense insurance (from Lockton Affinity) well before NRA Carry Guard came along, “but has not made such a concerted effort in promoting it, at least not in the past six years. Plus, the new policy offers a broader and more inclusive package than before,” according to Guns.com. That broader package now includes such items as the gun-use training program and a 24-hour hotline.
It’s worth noting that while NRA Carry Guard is arguably the highest-profile provider of self-defense coverage, it’s not the only one. Others include Affordable Insurance Solutions, Conifer Insurance Co. and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.
Membership benefits for NRA Carry Guard come in three tiers: bronze, silver and gold.
The bronze level, at $155 a year, provides $250,000 in coverage for legal costs in fighting a civil suit and $50,000 in coverage for legal costs associated with mounting a defense against criminal charges. The silver level, at $255 a year, provides $500,000 for civil cases and $100,000 for criminal cases. At the $360-a-year gold level, it’s $1 million for civil cases and $150,000 for criminal cases.
However, the insurer won’t fully reimburse legal expenses if the policyholder is found guilty of criminal charges stemming from a self-defense shooting.
“Today’s America is the most lawsuit-happy culture in the history of the world,” talk show host and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch told America’s 1st Freedom, an NRA website. “And gun owners face the extra threat of widespread bias and misunderstanding. In this environment, if you are going to carry a firearm in self-defense, you have no choice but to find the strongest, most comprehensive coverage from the most trusted name you can find.”
(Insurance provider Clements Worldwide refutes the notion that the U.S. is the world’s “most lawsuit-happy culture.” According to Clements, in terms of lawsuit “happiness,” Germany, Sweden, Israel and Austria rank above the U.S. as the most litigious countries in the world.)
NRA Carry Guard also offers “supplementary payments” for bail, bonds, legal retainer fees, gun replacement, psychological help, cleanup costs, and compensation when the gun-owning defendant is in court and away from work.
Additionally, NRA Carry Guard features firearms training, as well as instruction focusing on a gun owner’s rights and responsibilities.
The spouse of an NRA Carry Guard policyholder receives the same benefits at no cost, as do relatives who live with a policyholder and lawfully defend themselves at home.