Membership Dues to Increase
by Marty Hayes, J.D.
After considerable deliberation and weighing many comments from our members, we have decided that we must implement a modest membership dues increase beginning May 1. I am announcing this in March so that anyone wanting to renew ahead of time at current prices has two full months to get it done. After May 1, renewal dues for current members will be $105 per year or $285 for three years. Dues for new memberships will be $150 per year or $340 for a new three-year membership, so if you have family or friends who are not yet members, joining now will save money.
At the beginning of 2023, we stopped offering our 10-year memberships out of concern over inflation. With the impending dues increase, we welcome your early renewal, while respectfully requesting that members only order one 3-year extension of their membership. “Stacking up” multiple renewals would create the same issues that led us to stop offering 10-year memberships. We ask your understanding.
This moderate dues increase still leaves the cost to be in the Network among the lowest in the industry. One reason we can remain so cost effective is that we don’t pay insurance premiums. Many of the other programs do not have the cash reserves to pay for their promises to their clients, but instead pay premiums for an insurance company to ante up the money for their clients’ legal defense costs. Nothing wrong with this, except that under that structure your future is ultimately guided by insurance underwriters, not your chosen attorney. Those insurance companies are making bank on this little industry.
Our May 1 dues increase does mean more money will be going into the Network’s Legal Defense Fund, which is a good thing. As an aside, many people who are inquiring into the Network confuse what we do with non-profit organizations (like the American Civil Liberties Union, for example) and are very concerned that we do not put the biggest percentage of membership dues into the Legal Defense Fund. They do not appear to understand that Network pays its own way because unlike many non-profits, our operations are not funded by government handouts or big corporate contributions. We also pay taxes on every dollar we put into the Legal Defense Fund.
The May 1 dues increase will allow us to set aside funds for staff growth in the future as we are reaching the limit of our ability to handle the administrative work of the Network. Office staff wages need to remain competitive, so we don’t lose staff to better paying jobs. Skilled staff is essential to answer phone calls, respond to emails and process the memberships. We have over 20,000 members, the majority of whom renew yearly. That means we are processing each renewal and sending out around 15,000 membership cards per year. That breaks down into more than 1,000 per month or approximately 50 per day. We could pay lower wages, but that would reduce the quality of people doing the work and increase staffing turn over. Neither is acceptable.
In addition to employee costs, we also must cover postage, rent, utilities, taxes and all the other expenses of doing business. In recent years, we have paid over $140,000 in legal fees to fight the illegal action taken against us by Washington State’s anti-gun insurance commissioner, which makes the donations we have received from members and non-members even more meaningful. Thank-you for those donations to the fight.
Appellate Court Hearing Date Set
On March 13, 2023, a three-person panel of judges at the Washington State Court of Appeals (Div. II) will hear the case of Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. v. Washington State Insurance Commissioner. I have written at length about our case in past journals including a history of our fight that I penned a year ago at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/april-2022-presidents-message . Today, I will only recap our legal argument and what we hope to accomplish.
In an attempt to shut us down and prevent us from assisting WA state Network members (as had already been done to several other companies), the WA State Insurance Commissioner accused us of selling insurance without a license, issued a cease and desist letter and fined us $200,000 (later reduced to $50,000).
It took about a year to get a hearing from the Insurance Commissioner, but our argument was dismissed, with the presiding officer of the hearing (an employee of the Insurance Commission) asserting that while the act of self defense might be an intentional act, the situation leading up to the use of force was a contingent act. She stated that self defense was in fact a hybrid contingent act, and concluded that we were selling insurance. The Washington State definition of insurance is: “Insurance is a contract whereby one undertakes to indemnify another or pay a specific amount upon determinable contingencies.”
We are countering that with a two-part argument. First, Network membership has no contract to indemnify or pay specific amounts. There is no guarantee that we will grant legal defense funds. Thus, there is no contract. Secondly, in a self-defense incident, there is no contingency, because self defense is an intentional act. We are hopeful that the WA State Court of Appeals (Div. II) will give thoughtful and honest consideration to our arguments. Although we have been allowed to serve our WA members and permitted to renew existing WA members, we would like to be able to enroll Washingtonians who have not previously been Network members, so we can educate them, many of whom are new armed citizens, about legal and responsible self defense, and be there to assist in their legal defense if they use force in self defense.