by Marty Hayes, J.D.
For the last two months, in this column I have asked if there are any benefits you, our members, would like to see added to the Network. I received 30 responses to the question, and I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss them here.
First, most people were very pleased with the Network and benefits we offer. A few people mentioned my discussion about the possibility of raising dues, which has not been done since 2015, and most who discussed the question of dues said they felt a dues increase was not out of line. That is good, because it will be happening soon; we will announce it next month. We will give you plenty of time to renew at the current rates.
The single most requested additional benefit was not a new one, but something members wanted more of: training videos. I will tell you that will be happening, and in fact it should have been in place already, had we not suffered a major setback which has delayed the production of more video content.
One new training benefit we have in process and hope to release soon is establishment of a certification course based on our existing educational package. Work has started on that project and its completion is next up on my agenda.
One member asked for some type of civil liability insurance, like that which is offered by other businesses. I understand the attractiveness of insurance, but there are many problems which, in my opinion, prevent insurance from being a viable alternative for the Network. Those problems involve too much information to share here, but I will explain my thoughts more thoroughly in the future.
One comment was to offer to fund legal defense following acts of lawful self defense by underage kids in member/parents’ homes. I have no problem with this, and frankly, I had already decided that if a member’s child used force in self defense in the home, we would treat that act as if the member him- or herself did it. In the 14 years we have been in business, we have had no such instances, so I don’t think it is a big issue. One problem is that kids are unlikely to take the time to watch and study the educational package. Parents, are you willing to chaperone your children while they watch the videos?
The subject of an annual conference for members came up, but that is a ton of work and our staff is already running close to max. We have tossed around the idea in the past, but always came to the conclusion that the juice was not worth the squeeze.
A couple of comments explored the Network hosting a traveling seminar for members and prospective new members. We have also kicked around this idea from time to time, but we have always had to acknowledge that the best training in this regard is already being offered by Mas Ayoob though his Massad Ayoob Group business. Instead of encroaching into Massad’s business, we encourage members to seek out his training.
A new member wanted the Network to expand the assistance to acts of self defense not including firearms, and to render that assistance before they were charged with a crime. Good news! That is what we already do! In fact, the minute we find out the member was involved in an act of self defense, we will start working with the member to get legal representation. It works! In the 29 member-involved cases where we assisted members after an act of self defense, many were not charged with a crime at all; other times charges were dropped, and a couple accepted favorable plea bargains. None have gone to trial.
Another member asked us to raise the payout for bail assistance, above and beyond the previously offered $25,000. That has already been done. A couple of years ago we removed any discussion of dollar amounts for bail and legal fees, as the Legal Defense Fund has grown to the point where we could handle pretty much any request. One problem members need to understand is if a high bail amount (such as a million-dollar bail) is required, most bail bondsmen will also require sufficient collateral to be pledged to cover the bond if you fail to show up for your court date. State laws regarding bail bonds have become a patchwork across the nation, too. These are factors causing us to take bail assistance requests on a case-by-case basis.
Other requests were for arranging discounts for the purchase of gun safes and firearms theft insurance, along with discounts to pay for training by other businesses.
The subject of attorneys also came up, with one member wanting quicker response when calling a Network Affiliated Attorney to introduce oneself (not after self defense – if unable to reach your attorney immediately in an emergency, members need to call me). Another wanted the Network to assign an attorney to a member. There are two problems with this, one being we don’t run the attorney’s business for them, and really cannot dictate how they do things. The other problem is that it has always been my belief the member should be responsible for hiring their own attorney. We can recommend attorneys in most areas, but it is always up to the member to choose their attorney. What we have now is the best system we could come up with, and in fact the attorney question is the one we have spent the most time on here at the Network. We are not resting on our laurels with what we have and continue to pursue additional options to improve this aspect of the Network.
We have always said we cannot assist members if they are carrying a gun illegally, and that is still our policy. To advertise that compliance with the law didn’t matter to us would be akin to promoting violation of the law. That would open us to a whole, additional legal quagmire. That doesn’t preclude us from deciding on a case-by-case basis whether we should step in and assist a member who was involved in a legitimate act of self defense even though the member had violated a carry law provision. Interestingly, the direction the USSC is going might just make the question moot if the Justices were to eventually eliminate state carry restrictions altogether. For now, our policy will remain unchanged.
Speaking of statutory violations of gun laws, another member wanted us to extend benefits for those being questioned by BATFE regarding the building/finishing of 80% guns. That is a non-starter for us; if you don’t want the Federal Government to be questioning you, don’t open the door for them. We will continue to focus our resources on defending against unmeritorious prosecution and lawsuits following of acts of self defense, not on regulatory law.
Lastly, a member wanted a proprietary Internet forum where Network members could talk to each other if they wished. If someone wanted to set this up and monitor it so nothing was said that could be used against a member, we might talk about it. We already have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/221594457860509), but not everyone approves of Facebook, and it gets little discussion among members.
Thank you, members, for contributing your ideas. Remember, you can always reach me through our Ask A Question form at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/contact .