by Gila Hayes
At the Network we spent most of April serving our ever-larger membership, with the NRA Annual meeting membership recruitment efforts and our new advertisements bringing in many new members. Just seven years after starting the Network to fulfill Marty Hayes’ vision of a supportive membership organization of armed citizens standing together when one was singled out for prosecution after using force in self defense, we have the means to fully fund a member’s legal defense after legitimate self defense. Reaching milestones, though, is never the end of all the late nights and worry lines. A milestone like the Network’s half-million dollar Legal Defense Fund balance only heralds new tasks, challenges and goals.
We treasure our Network members who understand that surviving the self-defense legal aftermath is a lot more than just paying for a highly-skilled legal team. These members also understand that individual knowledge and preparation results in members who are less likely to make missteps, either in the actual use of force or in defining why that use of defensive force was necessary when questioned afterwards.
To that end, our Network membership education package has grown from the three foundational lectures on DVD we distributed during our first two years, to a full library of eight lectures on topics ranging from use of deadly force to use of non-lethal self defense methods, discussions of how to navigate the immediate aftermath of a self-defense shooting, the legal defense of self defense, pre-attack indicators so we can articulate why we perceived a deadly threat, physiological and psychological realities that occur during and after critical incidents and more. In 2014, we added to that library, Massad Ayoob’s excellent new book, Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense, which consistently receives high marks from members.
While providing that educational package carries a price tag, member education is an important investment that protects the Legal Defense Fund. Since we started the Network in 2008, only eleven members have needed attorney fees paid after self defense, so the value of that investment is readily apparent. But, what about that investment? If members are doing so well avoiding trouble, why have we worked so hard to build up the Legal Defense Fund?
The world is imperfect. In the lead interview to this journal, Andrew Branca spoke about “the cleanest self-defense shoot I have ever seen,” when he explained how a political prosecution occurs when there are few facts for a prosecutor to attack. For 18 months, the press and politicians stirred up all kinds of accusations about George Zimmerman’s self-defense shooting, he illustrated. That’s just one example of our imperfect world and why we must continue to build up the Legal Defense Fund.
Reaching the half-million dollar mark and pushing forward to the next natural goal–a one million dollar balance in the Fund–is a multi-faceted effort. Network Vice President Vincent Shuck solicits merchandise donations that he auctions to raise money for the Legal Defense Fund, an effort he has undertaken since our early days. You read his auction announcements occasionally in our monthly membership email. We owe a debt of gratitude to the gun accessory and ammunition manufacturers who have supported our organization through their product donations, and to Vincent for spearheading this fundraising.
Individual members have also done much to grow the Fund. In addition to 25% of all new and renewing membership dues, many members round up their dues checks or contribute an extra $25, $50 or $100 to the Fund online. We keep this fundraising very low-key (resolving never to bombard you with pleas for money), but we do have a “contribution” e-commerce item at http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/contribute) and the membership renewal requests mailed out the month before your membership expires includes a line inviting voluntary additional contributions to the Legal Defense Fund.
Every week, as these roll in with amounts donated varying according to each member’s ability, I send out thank you notes and emails. I am as grateful for the extra $5 added to a member’s renewal check as I am for the $100 contribution that recently came in with a new membership purchase. Each gets a heart-felt thank you email and it is fun when the members send back a little reply of his or her own.
“You’re very welcome, Gila,” wrote one long-time member recently. “I’m glad the 1/2 mil milestone was reached. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of. I’m so glad you guys made the effort to initiate this service and have such rock stars on the Advisory Board. I, like others, value your service highly. But I hope I never need you!”
The last is a long-standing joke between the members and me. When members phone in, I’ll thank them for calling and as often as not, the member will quip, “Well, I just hope I never have to call you ‘for real’”–to us to pay their attorney. I generally reply that we’ll just have to be happy hearing from them once a year when they call in to renew their memberships. It is a nice and friendly way to let members know how much we appreciate their membership renewals and continued support of the Network.
That’s the bottom line: being ready, able and waiting to provide the post-incident support to members, while being grateful every day during which one of you does not have to fend off a criminal’s evil intentions. We at the Network will continue doing what we do to be ready to support you. The recent Legal Defense Fund milestone is only our first big accomplishment.
Click here to return to May 2015 Journal to read more.