by Gila Hayes
The variety of questions my team and I answer daily is diverse and sometimes we are a little surprised how many basic questions come from members who have been part of our family for years and years. Sometimes the questions smack of wishful thinking–maybe if I ask nicely, I’ll get some extra goodies. As I often respond, “Nothing wrong with asking!” I thought our readers might enjoy a taste of some of the questions and answers–and as a useful side effect, you’ll know a little more about how your Network membership benefits work and what we do to make sure we’re good stewards of the Network’s all-important Legal Defense Fund – reserved for all the expenses of mounting a vigorous legal defense after self defense. After all, no matter how easy it is to be distracted by minutiae, we best succeed by always keeping our highest goal firmly in mind.
I am frequently asked if Network membership includes free non-emergency consultations with attorneys to answer questions about gun laws, to help with concealed carry license problems, to provide reliable legal advice about issues like carrying a gun in a school facility, to name only a few areas of concern.
Here’s a response I recently sent a member: You asked if the Network would pay for a consultation to explore carrying guns at non-school events held in a school facility. No, we cannot pay for that. The Network pays members’ legal expenses after lawful use of force in self defense. Attorney consultations for other legal issues are not included in our membership benefits. As stewards of the Legal Defense Fund, it falls to us to grow and maintain a strong Fund for post-self-defense legal expenses, in keeping with the reason our members have joined our Network family. If we withdrew several hundred dollars for each member to consult with an attorney on non-emergency matters, we would quickly nickel and dime the Fund into insolvency.
Another common question is how a member gets help if he or she has to use force in self defense while on vacation or a business trip that takes them into another state where they do not know an attorney. One member asked if it even made sense to try to determine the name and contact information of attorneys practicing in a city he would be visiting for only a couple of days. It was a great question!
I suggested: If you were going to be in an area for a number of months, then it might be worth the time to log in to our website and use the interactive map under the Affiliates tab to become familiar with attorneys in that region, but for general travel, other members have found it a better use of their time to call Network President Marty Hayes after a self-defense incident and ask him to connect them with an attorney in the locality where the problem arose.
Connecting members with attorneys is, in fact, a service Marty has performed for members in well over half of our member-involved cases because many of our members hadn’t found an attorney close to home, either. Please understand that you’re never stuck with the attorney he suggests, you can always say, “No, don’t pay that attorney for me,” or “Yes, please pay him or her and get that lawyer working on my behalf!” We’re never going to interfere with a member’s attorney choice, but we’ll certainly help if asked!
If you’re logged in, https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/our-affiliates/map lists affiliated attorneys and Network-affiliated instructors within a 200-mile radius of any location you type into the “Enter a Location” field at the upper right side of that webpage before you click the “Search” button. Ignore any warnings about your browser’s geolocation settings, and type in any city, state or zip code and hit “Search.”
You could definitely make that search if you were in an area for a long time and wanted to check out who on the affiliation rolls was close by, but frankly, if it were me traveling, I’d just make sure to have Marty’s after-hours phone number (printed on the back of your membership wallet card) handy and ask him to step in and assist if something as serious as self defense had occurred.
Another common discussion arises when a member explains they won’t be renewing their spouse’s Network membership because he or she has quit carrying a gun or has not applied for a license to carry a concealed weapon. In light of how much money the Network has expended over the past 12 years on legal expenses to defend non-gun self defense, we are compelled to gently ask, “Does your spouse carry pepper spray they might use on an attacker? A mini-baton or a knife? Might your spouse strike a violent attacker’s head with an elbow or knee?” All of those are serious use of force responses to being attacked and it would be a really good idea to have legal representation to explain why it was necessary and reasonable.
On a related topic, sometimes members explain that they aren’t sure they will renew their memberships because they have moved to a state with very strict gun laws and won’t be able to get a license to carry. After expressing our condolences, we often comment: “The Network may be more important to you than ever, because we pay attorneys to defend members after self defense through any legal means, not just guns.”
As amply illustrated in our January journal’s review of member cases, we assist members who have defended themselves through a variety of legal means. Ironically, the punishment for fighting off an assailant with your fists can be loss of your gun rights and carry license. Your good fortune in being able to survive on the street through physical force alone may not extend to legal survival in the courts, so the Network is there to help you fight the criminal justice system.
Sometimes, we answer questions from members who wonder if they will be sent a membership wallet card when they renew. The answer is yes, and then we start to explore whether renewal cards we mailed weeks before got lost in the mail or lost in the member’s home. Many years ago, hoping to create a hard-to-overlook mailer for our renewal cards, I bought a supply of bright goldenrod-colored business-sized envelopes with prominent maroon lettering stating “Important: Contains Membership Renewal Documents.”
I’d hoped fewer cards would be lost with the brightly colored envelope. Alas, it still happens. In this day-and-age where everyone from AARP to the NRA sends out “membership” materials, it is worthwhile, members, to be sure others in your home who handle and sort mail are made aware that your Network membership is a valuable service for which you pay membership dues, so the few envelopes we send out yearly need to make it into your hands, not the trash can. While we always happily make and mail replacement cards, this is a little step you can take to avoid the frustration of waiting and waiting for your membership renewal card only to be told it was mailed weeks ago when you call to inquire.
The last topic I’m going to bring up is probably the toughest question we answer. Distilled into its most simple expression, people want to know, “How do I know this isn’t a scam?” I understand – trust has to be earned. In our situation, we are asking members to trust that we will help you after you have had to do the one thing you have worked your whole life to avoid – fighting to save your life from a violent criminal’s attack. In fact, you and your peers have been doing such a good job of avoiding fights that you don’t know anyone you can ask for recommendations because none of your associates have had to go through the legal aftermath.
It’s not like trying to choose an auto repair technician or a family physician for whom recommendations are many. There are, though, several good ways to make this difficult evaluation. The first evaluation concerns the company’s actual work, and that is why I dedicated so much space to discussing Network member cases from the previous decade in last month’s journal.
The other legitimate evaluation comes from industry leaders who, through their broader scope of experience and professional training, are highly qualified to offer recommendations. That is the rationale behind armedcitizensnetwork.org/defensefund/advisory-board. While we are very proud of our professional association with each member of our Network Advisory Board, their video commentaries about the Network bring many years of experience to the question of “Why should I trust the Network?”
Finally, hearing why customers choose one business over another is helpful. In the Network’s case, I would not say we have “customers” in the usual sense of the word, and instead we consider you a Network family member. Testimonials are an aspect of our Network’s reputation that I have been guilty of not sharing as much as I should. Now and again, we quote member emails and comments in this journal, but I have never managed to create a compilation of member comments.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.