by Marty Hayes, J.D.
Thank you to all the Network members who wrote in about my open letter to Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. Gila and I received well over one hundred responses, and hopefully one of us was able to respond back to you, even if it was just a brief “Thank You.” If you didn’t get a thank you, then please accept this one.
Interestingly, I did hear back from one member, who purchased a ten-year membership four years ago, but then also joined a legal services plan, which suited his life better.
That is fine, but he had some very strong and harsh words for the Network, and frankly, his message to me was full of un-truths about the membership benefits the Network provides. Additionally, he felt my message to LaPierre was out of line, because he felt it was perfectly acceptable for the NRA to directly compete in the business world with the very members who support it. That is okay, too, if that is his opinion.
In response to his concerns about the Network, however, I offered to refund the six years remaining on his membership, as we have a complete money-back guarantee and it was obvious he wasn’t satisfied. But his e-mail to me got me thinking, and maybe I should use my column this month to explain how I view competition in the business world, and competition in the self-defense aftermath market in particular.
When one puts his time, effort and money into starting a business, he has committed to using his own life-blood to further that business. When it is all said and done, a business one grows from a mere idea into a successful venture literally cost a part of his life to accomplish. In building the Network, Gila, Vincent and I sacrificed countless hours of our lives (and in the early years those hours were unpaid hours) to bring to fruition the idea I had back in 2006 for an organization to help its members weather the legal aftermath of self defense.
As you can see, I view the issue of competition from both a business sense and on a personal level. I’ll bet just about anyone who has started a business and worked hard to make it grow does, too. Since I have made my beliefs about the NRA’s Carry Guard public, I have been accused by a few people of being “afraid of the competition,” even though when I posted my open letter to Wayne LaPierre, I firmly stated it wasn’t the competition I was worried about, but instead I was seriously concerned about the NRA, a membership organization chartered under a totally different stated goal, dabbling in the business of self-defense insurance, competing directly against NRA members who have supported the NRA for years. I still adhere to that stance.
So, as my fellow NRA members I ask you, how does one compete against such a monolith as the NRA, which has more money to spend on advertising than the entire yearly budget of the Network? Well, for one thing, I COULD start spending the legal defense money on advertising, with the excuse that the Network needs to grow its membership to compete in this market place. Of course, I will never do that, because that would be a travesty! You joined the Network in order to grow that Legal Defense Fund. But isn’t that exactly what the NRA is doing–trying to get more money coming through their coffers by using the hard earned dollars we all donated to the NRA–instead of using those donations for waging war against the anti-gunners?
Alternatively, perhaps the Network could start filling its advertising with puffery-filled claims like “We Are The Gold Standard” and “America’s Most Comprehensive Coverage And Training For Those Who Carry A Gun.” But I don’t like to lie to my customers, so we do not make such outlandish claims. We expect our potential customers to actually do a little homework on what is provided, and then make an informed decision.
Or then again, we could hire a sexy girl to don a tight T-shirt to be the eye-candy to catch the men in the audience. It must be working, because I see the same image over and over on the Internet. But selling through sex appeal isn’t our style, either. We would rather reach potential members using our Advisory Board and other industry luminaries to explain why they are members of the Network. After all, each Advisory Board member is a heavy weight in the self-defense industry in his own right. That is more our style.
You see, I believe everything we say and do here at the Network directly effects our reputation, either for good or for bad. I can foresee being on the witness stand some day and discussing the Network with prosecution and defense attorneys, because one of our members was involved in a self-defense incident, and the prosecution is trying to create the element of “Intent” because the person was a Network member. I’m glad it hasn’t happened yet, but I know it likely will in the future. If that happens with a NRA Carry Guard client, whom are they going to put up on the witness stand to respond?
The sad thing is that the more the NRA gets negative publicity, the more that negative publicity reduces the power of the NRA. And a powerful NRA would still be a very good thing for our country. Despite my dislike of what they have recently done, I still believe every gun owner should also be a member of the NRA.
So, where does that leave us? Well, here is how the NRA works. The 76-person Board of Directors (for whom the NRA members vote each year) chooses a nominating committee from amongst its members, which then nominates individuals to serve as the NRA’s officers on the Executive Committee. Then, at the annual meeting, the Board of Directors votes on those nominees, who subsequently take their place on the committee. It is this Executive Committee, which sets the policies for the organization. The current Executive Board has the power to continue the Carry Guard program or nix it. So, if you feel as strongly about this as I do, and you are a member of the NRA, then I would urge you to contact your NRA board members and voice your concerns. It is what I have done, in the letter in the next article.
One last note: Apparently competition is good, because we are up close to a thousand members since this whole Carry Guard issue broke. As I said, I am not worried about the competition. But I AM worried about the future of the NRA.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.