GHayesby Gila Hayes

As the Network starts the final month of 2017, we do so with a profound sense of gratitude for the friendship, support and loyalty Network members have extended to us this year and all the preceding years. We started 2017 with approximately 12,000 members and a Legal Defense Fund balance exceeding $900,000. Our track record at that point boasted 13 members who had received assistance from the Fund after self defense. It has been an exciting year, but as it began 11 months ago, we had little hint of what was to come.

In the months following the 2016 wrap up we published at we faced extremely strong competition, coupled with tremendous Network growth.

As we enter the final month of 2017, membership has grown to nearly 15,000 members and as you read earlier in our President’s Message the Legal Defense Fund is up to $1,175,000. We’ll give you the final tally next month. I’ll note now that in 2017 despite paying attorneys, experts and investigators to protect two more members’ rights after self defense, the Fund continues to grow as members come together to protect one another.

In addition to allocations from dues, the Legal Defense Fund also grows through the donations from members. Often a renewing member rounds up his or her $95 renewal to $100 or a pair of members sharing a household membership round up the $155 to $175—or other round figures.

Even after adding a donation, their yearly check or charge authorization to the Network falls way below what competitors charge for access to the same dollar value of post-incident assistance. Our members’ generosity means a lot to me, and I send thank you emails that often are answered with a modest, “It wasn’t much,” or “I wish I could do more.” Mirroring the foundational premise of the Network through which all Network members throw our combined strength behind a single member who is wrongfully targeted for prosecution after self defense, these $5 and $20 gifts add up to hundreds of dollars a month that pays for the specialized skill only an experienced attorney can bring to steering the member through the second-most challenging time of his or her life.

In addition to “Round Ups,” the Fund grows through deeply appreciated gifts of $50, $100, $500 and more, usually mailed in or quietly transmitted online at I am regularly amazed and touched by the compassion these gifts express for fellow members who have not been as fortunate as the rest of us.

This is one result of your donations:
From February through October, an affiliated attorney waged battle against prosecution of a member who defended himself with pepper spray (we’ll speak of this in more detail once the dust kicked up by the criminal justice system settles). The attorney, who has often taken on municipal and state government and won, tackled the task with relish and while preparing to go to trial, strove to convince the government it could not win. As bills rolled in from her investigator, her expert, and for her own many, many hours, she’d send updates, sometimes noting that our account had sufficient money to push the work forward, or asking politely if we could send another five-figure check.

Thanks to her thoroughness and the generosity of Network members that is the topic of this column, we never hesitated to fund those defense expenses. Her bills illustrated the painstaking detail required to defend self defense in a hostile community. While it is expensive, the bills were never frivolous or exorbitant. We knew that we were funding the full-court press of a skilled professional bent on stopping the abuse of our member’s rights.

In the end, the government dropped all charges. We wrote the final check in October, happy that our member was not dragged through a trial. We were reminded to be grateful that all of our Network members understand the value of standing together against a powerful government that is generally far better funded than the poor defendant. Thank you, Network members, for sharing this soul-satisfying adventure with us!

To read more of this month's journal, please click here.