by Gila Hayes

Recently, I was archiving records of contributions and withdrawals from the Network’s Legal Defense Fund, moving some of the detailed records into deep storage, when I ran across a note from members John and Christine in PA who had just read our 2014 in Review article and were moved to donate to the Network’s Legal Defense Fund. Their note read, “Hi, Gila! Just saw your email. Let’s see if we can get the total above $8K for 2015. Kind regards, John and Chris.”

The Legal Defense Fund hit $800,000 in 2016 and surpassed the 1-million-dollar mark the following year. The vigorous growth of the Legal Defense Fund brings peace of mind to Network members, founders and staff alike, since the more funding we have to provide for member legal defense, the better prepared we are to strike back hard when a prosecutor or plaintiff’s attorney starts making noises about charging or suing a member who has done nothing more than what was necessary to remain alive and keep his or her family safe.

Since opening the Network in 2008, the Network has paid a quarter million in legal fees on behalf of 21 members. We operated from the first quarter of 2008 through February of 2011 with no member-involved incidents, during which time funding accumulated as our membership numbers climbed from zero to 6,000. Then in February 2011, we received a call from a member’s father requesting assistance for his son who was jailed after defensive display of a firearm to defend against multiple assailants. Network President Marty Hayes connected the member with an affiliated attorney, paid the attorney’s fee, and the Network had its first membership benefit fulfillment under its belt.

Later that year, a member displayed a firearm to prevent harm to himself and his wife during a holdup, bringing the 2011 count to two. Trouble skipped our Network family in 2012, but the following year, we paid attorneys on behalf of three members and then four members needed and received funding for attorneys’ services in 2014. Amongst those were defensive display of firearms, two instances of improvised weapons use and gunshots exchanged during which a member was wounded by a home invader.

The first few days of 2015 brought the first fatality shooting by a Network member. We were grateful for the extraordinary advocacy on behalf of our member and his family by our affiliated attorney, and that story, in case you have not seen it, is told in the second half of the article at By comparison, 2016 was very quiet, with only one member needing an attorney paid to intercede with authorities after he drew his firearm in response to being threatened.

In 2017, the Network funded the defense of two members, one a simple defensive display of a firearm to stop an angry neighbor from attacking the member’s family, but the second was a time and expense intensive effort to stop a self-defense-hostile prosecutor’s office from stripping away our member’s rights after use of pepper spray in self defense. In 2018, we funded defense of a member who fended off physical assault and was subsequently charged with a crime in December 2017, bringing the number of times we drew from the Fund in 2017 to three.

2018’s member involved-cases brought a physical confrontation, two fatality shootings, assault charges stemming from fending off a physical attack, and accusations against a member for responding to a threatening man by warning him to leave while holding pepper spray. For everyone’s sake, we hope the number of member-involved cases in 2018 holds at four, but if a member is attacked in the waning days of the year, the Legal Defense Fund is ready to fight the legal aftermath.

Network family members look out for one another. I frequently talk with and email members who express their profound desire to only call to renew memberships, update addresses or get help with logging in to the member only parts of the website. I agree, of course, and remind members that by being part of the Network family they are easing the aftermath of self defense for good men and women who share their values but were swept up in circumstances they did not seek or ask for. Thank you, members, for being there for each other.

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