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News and notes on guns in America

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NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch appears in promotional material for the group's new Carry Guard program. [NRA]

Carry Guard: The NRA’s Controversial ‘Self-Defense’ Insurance Program, Explained

A new ad campaign featuring the mother of Trayvon Martin targets both the underwriter and broker of a controversial insurance product offered by the National Rifle Association. The product, called Carry Guard, is marketed to gun owners worried about the legal costs they might incur if they shoot someone in self-defense.

The campaign, produced by Guns Down, an advocacy group, brands Carry Guard as “murder insurance,” as the Associated Press first reported. One ad includes a video featuring Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the unarmed black teenager killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. The incident brought Florida’s “stand your ground” law to international attention. The statute allows the use of deadly force in response to a perceived threat, so long as a person is in a place he or she has a right to be.

“Stand your ground” and Carry Guard are closely associated — both were created by the NRA and seek to shield shooters claiming self-defense from liability.

In April, The Trace broke the news about Carry Guard’s controversial launch, which occurred shortly before the NRA’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

Two of the NRA’s rivals in the self-defense insurance business are the US Concealed Carry Association (USCAA) and Second Call. Both offer packages — insurance to cover legal fees, bail bonding, a 24-hour advice hotline, access to counsel, and training — that the NRA has adopted for Carry Guard.

Those older, smaller organizations had rented exhibition booths and been visible presences at past NRA conventions, and each had planned to attend again this year. But the NRA has informed both that they are disinvited from its upcoming gathering in Atlanta.

This is how Carry Guard is structured, also from our prior reporting:

Offering three tiers of coverage, the service gives customers access to a financial and logistical backstop should they use their gun while claiming self defense. There’s liability insurance, ranging up to $150,000 in criminal-defense reimbursement, and $1 million in a civil-liability protection for those opting for the top-shelf Gold package, which runs $31.95 per month. Members also get a 24-hour advice hotline and immediate access to money for bail and clean-up costs.

In the Guns Down video, Fulton argues that the NRA’s policies make it “easier to get away with murder,” a pointed reference to her son’s case, since Zimmerman was acquitted. She also urges consumers to boycott Chubb, the product’s underwriter, and Lockton Affinity, its broker, until both companies end their association with the insurance.

It came as a surprise to insurance experts that Chubb, one of the most respected insurers in the United States, was involved with the product. “That would not have been the company I thought would have been doing this,” said Peter Kochenburger, the deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut.

Both Chubb and Lockton Affinity have yet to offer substantial public comments on Carry Guard or provide data on the product. Meanwhile, the NRA has marketed the program relentlessly.

“You should never be forced to choose between defending your life…and putting yourself and your family in financial ruin,” one ad says.

Carry Guard has also been criticized by civilian firearms instructors, The Trace reported in August. The program includes a training component, which is headed by U.S. Special Forces veterans. Civilian instructors say the tactics promoted by Carry Guard are “offensive in nature.”