Marty eJournal column pix

by Marty Hayes, J.D.

Imagine being involved in a self-defense altercation, and after the incident is over, you call the Network for assistance and find that your membership is expired. This happened a few weeks ago, when a member from Chicago called me after an incident and upon pulling up his membership records, we found that his membership had been expired for six months. The good news is that he actually didn’t need our financial assistance. The incident only involved him drawing the gun, and with all permits in place, the cops were understanding of his actions and reasons for what he did. He was not cited or prosecuted. But yikes! He certainly could have been.

It would really have sucked to have to tell him that he was no longer a member and thus not entitled to any member benefits. On the other hand, we send out multiple notices letting members know their memberships are about to expire or have expired, and inviting their return to membership, so we would have found that denial necessary and I wouldn’t have necessarily felt guilty, just sad.

Do you know when your membership expires? If you don’t, please take your card out of your wallet and check that expiration date. Even if your membership expiration date is several months away, you can renew early, and we will start your additional year when your current one expires. Folks, that call a few nights ago was stressful and we really don’t need any more close calls like that.

More About the Insurance Commissioner

The WA Office of Insurance Commissioner continues to investigate the Network, but it sure seems like the government is dragging its feet. Perhaps it is because they are not sure what to do with us. Early in the process, we put in a public records request covering investigations into other companies, and each month we get several thousand pages of public records supplied to us. So far, the OIC has finished investigations into three companies, and aside from us, they are investigating two more. Eventually we will get the public information on all the investigations, as by law they must release the information upon request when an investigation is done. With all I have read, including hundreds of cases where tangential issues were involved, I still believe we are on the right side of the issue inasmuch as we are not insurance, and we are resolute in continuing the fight. It is sad that this campaign is really not about the insurance commissioner looking out for the citizens, because no citizen ever complained about us. It is all about politics, and when something is about politics, it tends to get dirty. More on this next month.

No SHOT Show for Us

In years past, we have occasionally made the trek to Las Vegas to attend the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Shooting Hunting & Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show but I have decided to not go this year. It seems like we accomplish less and less each time we go, and the cost–even if we do not have a booth–is very high. Sorry, if you were wandering the show floor expecting to catch a glimpse of Gila, Vincent or me, you can set aside that expectation. We do plan on having our booth at the NRA Annual Meeting this coming April in Nashville, TN, so perhaps we will see you there.

Customer Service is Great at Nighthawk Custom

I broke a barrel bushing on a Nighthawk Custom handgun about a week ago. It was a totally freak occurrence, but when I called them, they got a return slip for UPS into my hands the same day I called. I wasn’t even this gun’s first owner, having purchased the gun used on I fully expect to have the gun back in my hands within a couple of weeks, with the bushing fixed at no cost. That is great customer service, and as a long time business owner myself, I appreciate good customer service when I am on the consumer end.

The State of the Network

Normally, I write a lead article in the January newsletter to discuss the state of the Network. This year we focused instead on assistance to members who have used our benefits. That worked for me because frankly there is not a lot to report. Here is the bare-bones report.

First, the Network remains financially strong, with well over two million dollars set aside in our Legal Defense Fund. As I have been learning, that balance is actually pretty important in the fight with the insurance commissioner, because it means that we are “self-funded” and do not have to rely upon any underwriting to meet our promises to members.

As far as I know, we are the only company that provides “after self-defense legal support” that isn’t underwritten by an insurance company. Given the fact that our whole legal argument with the OIC is that we are not insurance, and we have no insurance component to our business model, that fact allows us to clearly and honestly state that we are not soliciting insurance. That’s important, because it defeats the OIC’s claim. I expect to see several other companies either be banned or voluntarily withdraw from Washington and other states because of the fact that their promises to their clients are underwritten by an insurance company.

We have not been doing much advertising of the Network over the last year, primarily because we wanted to stay conservative and retain as much working capital for the legal fight. This conservative approach has resulted in a stagnancy regarding growth of the Network, with membership totals still hovering at about 17,500 members.

Ironically, while I was thinking about advertising expense levels, I received a phone solicitation from an advertising agency which represents one of the largest conservative radio talk shows nationwide. I was told that one of our competitors had failed to renew their contract for advertising on the show, and the ad agency needs to replace their ads with another self-defense aftermath company’s advertising revenue. I had a very interesting talk with the sales rep, who was a real nice guy, discussing what we would get for the money. Our message would be exposed to millions of listeners, and of course, he said, we would expect to gain thousands of new members almost immediately.

Let’s say he was right. What would happen if we could afford the million dollar price tag for this advertising and set those wheels in motion? To handle the volume of new members he predicted, we would likely need to add somewhere between 20-to-100 new employees, and of course, move to a larger office building. We would have to get even more phone lines to handle the large volume of calls, add computers, and a shipping dock to send out all the new membership packages. You get the idea.

If I were a younger man, I might consider it, but when I started this business a decade ago, it was never my intention to try to serve every American who owns a gun. I just set a goal to provide the best membership for the least amount of money and to do that for a close-knit group of members who understand the legal issues involved in self defense.

We have more than accomplished that goal, and we have done it without going into debt or having a huge overhead. It would be nice to add a few more members, but only those who would truly value what we do. If you know someone who could benefit by being a member of the Network, please take the time and effort to make sure they sign up. You might even buy them a Network membership for a late Christmas present.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, and do not need to use the Network benefits, but if you do, we will be here for you.

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