GHayesEverything but the Kitchen Sink

by Gila Hayes

If you were buying a gun (something most of us have done multiple times, so this is a shared experience), would you go for the Old Reliable Basic Blaster that has been serving serious gun buyers for ten years, with a price tag of $525? It is just a plain-jane, rock-solid pistol without many frills. Would you instead fork out $800 for a sleek, brightly chromed Herferdorfer Mark II model that offered several color schemes and different patterns and artwork on the grip panels from which to choose?

Before you decide, consider the high-capacity “Herf” Mark III that comes with even more features and accessories, including interchangeable optics, a detachable battery-powered light/strobe/laser combo, and a custom finish on the slide that includes an engraving of your choice of a patriotic or inspiring message. All this, for just 200 bucks more.

But wait, there’s more: don’t fail to look at the flagship Herferdorfer Mark IV, the top of the line. It can be yours if you’ll just plunk down another pair of Franklins (now you are up to $1,400). The ultimate Mark IV includes an under-the muzzle mini camera that activates and records when you draw the Mark IV from its custom holster. For only a little more money, it connects to your smartphone to record and store the whole incident from muzzle view point. My, oh, my.

At the gun counter stand Joe, Mary and Pete, three potential crime victims. Perhaps each has comforted a grief-stricken neighbor who lost a loved one to violent crime, or sat up nights with a terrified family member after a vicious home invasion. The threat and the danger is very real to Joe, Mary and Pete, and they have taken steps toward being more capable of preserving innocent life. Now, they need to make one more choice. Which one will buy the Old Reliable Basic Blaster? To whom will the Herferdorfer’s bright chrome finish appeal? Which one will plop down $1,400 for the iPhone compatible Bluetooth muzzle camera?

Impulse buying and fear marketing is alive and well in the firearms industry (Do you doubt me? Just ask one of the thousands who flocked to Las Vegas last week for the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show). This kind of marketing is also alive and well in the self-defense post-incident support plan field.

When Network Founder Marty Hayes first envisioned a membership organization to assist with legal expenses after self defense, his greatest concern was how many good armed citizens could not afford solid legal representation in the critical, early days after self defense and on through trial. Before we started the Network, options were limited to traditional insurance to reimburse you if you could afford your own legal team to get to a Not Guilty verdict, or prepaid legal services plans that would assign an attorney, but did not include additional and often expensive case needs like expert witnesses and private investigators. He knew that armed citizens needed another choice.

Bringing this vision into reality, we introduced the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc. in 2008. Look-alikes soon began springing up. Like the hypothetical Herferdorfer Gun Company, competitors were quick to pile on features to distract from the Network’s up-front funding to assure a vigorous legal team to defend our members’ use of force. The many features tossed into the marketplace included crime scene clean up, paid days in court, psychological counseling, gun replacement, and other eye-catching enticements.

Almost immediately, competitors also began offering various levels of cost with subsequent limits to post-incident support. The new offers sold tiers starting at, for example, $125 for a “Basic” that funded up to $50,000 criminal defense expenses, $275 for “Better” that offered $100,000 for criminal defense and $100,000 for civil law suit defense plus $100,000 civil judgment insurance, and $400 for the “Best” support with $200,000 for criminal defense, $200,000 for civil law suit defense and $250,000 insurance coverage against losing a civil lawsuit. Of course, these tiers also included different enticements, too.

Now, Joe, Mary and Pete sit at their desks trying to make sense of all the options sold by post-incident support programs. Pete, who is a truck driver with a passel of small children at home being raised by a wife who has her hands full caring for their kids, can only afford a $125 “Basic” from one of our competitors, but realistically, in order to get to a not guilty verdict, he will actually need upwards of $200,000 criminal defense assistance. Pete can’t afford the competitor’s top tier plan with all the frills and options and still pay for his kids’ school lunches. He needs a tightly focused, reliable plan that will fund his greatest legal defense needs without wasting precious money on lesser details.

Talking to Real People

Joe, Mary and Pete may be imaginary, but the questions they have about post-incident support are not. Last week, a caller said he would join the Network if membership included a magazine sent to him by mail; the previous week, a caller stressed that she was not interested unless we provided crime scene clean up and another wanted paid days in court as part of his post-incident support. Then, just a couple of days later, I spent quite a lot of time clarifying that insurance to cover a civil judgment assessing damages is not part of our membership benefits package, because we don’t sell insurance. Instead, our membership benefits provide up to one-half of the balance of the Legal Defense Fund for the legal expenses of defending self defense use of force and assistance with bail.

We are not reselling insurance policies, and that is a really good thing, because decisions about serving our members are not governed by the whims of an insurance company. There’s no insurance executive who may decide to cancel coverage and notify you that your policy won’t be renewed; there’s no underwriter in a high-rent office in a big city to abruptly raise your premiums by 25%, and then won’t take your call to explain why.

By comparison, the Network is a group of armed citizens looking out for other armed citizens. We pool our strength to protect individual members who are singled out for prosecution or lawsuit after righteously defending themselves against criminal attack. In ten years since introducing the Network, fifteen members have needed and received that support, and still, the Legal Defense Fund blossomed from zero on day one to $1,245,000.

While we take satisfaction in welcoming each new member who joins our Network and stands with us, we don’t focus our efforts entirely on membership growth or make “being the biggest, baddest company” in the field our top priority. Our top priority is building membership with like-minded armed citizens who share our values and who know that biggest isn’t always best and that sometimes Old Reliable is the choice that will see you through.

To each member of the Network, thank you for joining your strength with ours, thank you for sharing our vision. And to our staunch friend and Advisory Board member John Farnam who coined the funny gun model name Herferdorfer many, many years ago, thank you for teaching us to laugh at the silly things that happen in our industry. If we couldn’t laugh now and then, it would just be too much.

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