Good Planning for Bad Times
by Gila Hayes
Armed citizens face the conundrum of working hard to avoid having to defend themselves while also putting in place measures to limit aftereffects if they do have to stop a deadly force attack. I think that is why so many just never get around to implementing legal defense protections to avoid being punished for the crime of assault, murder or manslaughter after doing only what was necessary to survive. Many fail to even compile an In Case of Emergency file folder for loved ones who are called upon to help while the armed citizen is in police custody after a shooting or defensive display of a firearm. Just like briefing your spouse and kids about the reality of self defense, this is a preparatory step that too frequently just doesn’t get done. The family may be resistant to talking about self defense issues and besides, it is more fun to go to the range and shoot or to sit back and watch gun videos.
As a result, family members face emergencies with truly inadequate information about how to reach the Network on their loved ones’ behalf, how–if the member has chosen an attorney–to get that attorney coming to help, and how to notify the Network so we can pay the attorney a fee deposit to get started defending the member, explore whether bail assistance is needed and make other necessary arrangements.
In addition, an In Case of Emergency file can even include simple safeguards and basic guidelines like “Don’t talk to the neighbors or to news reporters about what happened.” Others have gone so far as to recommend that a power of attorney or access to a high-balance credit card be part of an In Case of Emergency file to aid in bailing out the armed citizen. While the Network does provide up to $25,000 assistance with bail, in states where a bail bonding is prohibited (several do) or charges of certain crimes sometimes require the full bail amount in cash deposited with the clerk of the court instead of working through a bail bondsman, these additional protective steps make a lot of sense.
At the heart of the armed citizen’s reluctance to compile an In Case of Emergency folder, I think, is the underlying human optimism that wishes, “I don’t really believe anything bad will happen to me. I won’t ever have to shoot someone.” With that message sneaking around the subconscious, it is no wonder armed citizens are so often caught flat footed when taken in for questioning, with family members left lacking even the Network’s after-hours emergency number on which to call for assistance.
Armed citizens need to acknowledge that we own guns because we may need to fight to save our lives. I was reminded of that critically important message recently from two respected sources. First, I attended a short class by Tom Givens in which he emphasized the value of that mindset, echoing advice I’d heard him stress years earlier in an interview we published at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/images/stories/Network_2012-7.pdf in which he said, “You carry a gun because you might have to shoot somebody. You really need to think about that and internalize it.” He advised readers to ask themselves, “Why am I putting this gun on today? Because I might have to shoot somebody today. That’s why you’re putting it on. If you don’t recognize the possibility of having to shoot somebody today, then why on earth are you carrying a gun?” he asked.
A few days ago, Tom Gresham’s online blog at https://guntalk.com/news/extras/five-steps-increase-edc-safety reminded readers of the same truth. “When you put on your pistol in the morning, say aloud, ‘This is the day I will need this gun.’ Not ‘may need.’ Say it out loud. Program your mind. It will help you stay alert all day long,” he wrote.
These astute gentlemen have both guided my own growth over the years, and I found their instruction resonating in my mind a few days ago while relaying information about a member’s critical incident to our Network President so he could arrange for an affiliated attorney to represent a member. I realized that we need to review how members and the Network cooperate in prior preparation so that we are notified of the need in a timely fashion, in order to pay an attorney to protect the member’s rights quickly.
Armed citizens train for, think about and plan for what some have called “The Unthinkable.” Using a gun to defend yourself is not unthinkable–it is a necessity some of our number have faced and others will face. Acknowledge why you own guns and what happens after you have to fight for your life. What will be your concerns after you’ve survived a violent attack and used your gun to survive?
Members come from a wide variety of situations and locales, ranging from highly restrictive, heavily populated mega-cities to remote rural regions in which the member and his or her attacker may be the only humans for many miles. The post-incident protocol for the urban dweller is profoundly different than what the solitary soul in the desert or mountains two or three hours from outside help will need to do. Post-incident procedures cannot be uniform for everyone.
Members are encouraged to review and adapt the principles taught in Massad Ayoob’s video lecture about the immediate aftermath of self defense at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/immediate-aftermath (member log in required – please call or email if username or password assistance needed). This lecture is also sent to new members on DVD.
The Network is firmly invested in the ideal of individual responsibility, and while we have in the past and will in the future continue to assist members in finding a defense attorney after self defense, we also emphasize the value of getting to know an attorney in advance of needing one. If you’ve done that, don’t forget to periodically check in with your attorney to be sure he or she is still practicing, has not retired, moved, or even as has happened with several Network affiliated attorneys over the years, been appointed or elected to serve as judge.
If a Network member has not selected an attorney or is outside their home area when the necessity of self defense arises, the Network’s President Marty Hayes steps in and helps the member connect with an attorney as he discussed in his column earlier in this journal. In our 19 member-involved cases, he has made those connections on behalf of members 13 times. Whether Marty arranges introductions between the member and an attorney or whether the member designates his own lawyer, our driving concern when a member contacts us after self defense is that they need to be represented by counsel as quickly as possible. If they have an attorney selected, we ask how we can contact the law firm to determine how much money the attorney needs to be present at any police interactions, arraignment and related hearings at court if it comes to that, keeping news reporters at bay, and tending to other details on behalf of the member and his or her family.
Here’s an easy little assignment you can do now to speed that process if it is ever needed. Make up a file folder or 9x12 envelope and secure it somewhere your best friend, spouse, significant other, mom or dad, adult son or daughter – or all of those relations – can find and use it. The front might read something like this:
In Case of Emergency
Inside write a brief, serious note without hyperbole or social commentary about what may have led to circumstances making these protective steps necessary. It might read something like this:
If I have asked you to obtain legal assistance after use of force in self defense, please do the following on my behalf as quickly as possible:
My attorney’s name is __ and his/her phone numbers are __ and __. Please contact him/her and explain what has happened. Next, please telephone the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network of which I am member # ___ and give them my name and the name of my attorney and a brief explanation of my situation.
If you have not selected an attorney, the second paragraph might read:
I do not have an attorney selected. Please telephone the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network of which I am member # ___ and give them my name, location and information about whether I am in police custody or am available for contact and if I can be contacted, what is the best phone number on which to reach me since my cell phone may be taken as part of the police investigation.
Please tell the Network that I do not have an attorney and I need help hiring one. The Network will help us do this and so long as my use of force was self defense, they will pay for an attorney to represent me. Please contact them right away because I need an attorney as quickly as possible.
Next, members, please log in to the Network website and print https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/boots-on-the-ground. Precede that page by writing:
Please read the attached directions and phone numbers through which you can contact the Network during business hours or outside of business hours.
We make this journal open to the public as an educational outreach resource, so we can’t print the actual Accessing Post-Incident Assistance document here since it contains information that is strictly for member use only, so call us if you need help with your log in account so you can access it. It is a concise but important document. If you have not already printed this document and put it where those who may assist you after a critical incident can find it, please do that now.
Thinking back over the years, there are several elements of Network protections for members that we have occasionally been surprised to learn that members hadn’t known about. The top three are:
- Network assistance after self defense is NOT limited to shooting in self defense. Network members have defended themselves with improvised weapons and pepper spray or have displayed a firearm but not shot in self defense and we have paid attorneys to represent them. Our requirement is that the defense tool must be legal and the use undertaken in self defense, so members do need to know the weapons laws where they live and where they travel. Even if using pepper spray or improvising a weapon doesn’t seem as serious to you as defending yourself with a gun, in today’s world, it would be foolhardy to use force against another person and not have legal counsel before and while speaking with police.
- A few days ago, a member called to check on the expiration date for his membership. I was surprised to learn that he was unaware of the increase in the amount of funding available as an initial fee deposit to an attorney to get the representation started after self defense. Several years ago, we increased the initial fee cap from $10,000 to $25,000, adjusting to increasing attorney fees and the expenses of other professionals they may need to hire to get out ahead of falsehoods being spread about a member after a self-defense incident.
We never want an attorney to think he or she cannot afford to, for example, hire a skilled private investigator ASAP, so now the immediate deposit against fees can go as high as $25,000 sent to the attorney immediately, with instructions that if more funding is needed to prepare for trial, the Network will need to see the facts of the case to understand that the use of force in self defense was legal, whereupon additional funding is extended to prepare for and go to trial to defend the member.
- Some members have been with us for a decade now and may not have kept up with the growth in membership benefits. We also provide, as mentioned earlier, up to $25,000 available to assist in obtaining a bail bond to secure the member’s release in states where that is an acceptable practice.
For our long-time members, it might be a good idea to spend a few minutes reviewing the outline of benefits at https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/learn/membership-benefits just to be sure you’re up to speed on how the Network and its support for members after self defense has grown. When you renew your membership, please also review the documents we mail with your membership wallet card.
I’ve talked with candidates for membership who comment that they want to buy a long membership for themselves and their adult family members and consider their part done. “I just want to buy it and forget it,” one nice gentleman explained. Instead, the Network views our relationship with each member as a partnership with dual duties. We work hard providing assistance to members while increasing funding for legal defense. We ask in return that members study the educational book and lectures on DVD we mail new members (also at https://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/members/lectures-on-video) and take some notes. And please, do take a few minutes to compile an In Case of Emergency file folder or envelope. It is the kind thing to do for the people who care about you–including us at the Network.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.