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Looking Forward and Back

by Gila Hayes

February 2008 marked the first edition of the Network’s online journal, our way of staying in touch with our members and reaching out to prospective members. For the ensuing 152 months, our monthly journal has shared our viewpoints, concerns and raison d’être for forming the Network as an organization of like-minded men and women banding together to look out for one another in the legal aftermath that follows use of force in self-defense.

We have enjoyed the support and generosity of many of the self-defense education leaders who have written commentaries, answered thousands of questions through our Q & A lead articles from viewpoints spanning uber-conservative military veterans to sophisticated intellectuals with less time in the trenches but gifted in analytical and instructional skills that help laypersons like me understand issues like human physiology under extreme stress, as only one example. Not only have these subject matter experts generously shared the time to answer questions, but they also reviewed the resulting articles for accuracy and completeness before release for the edification of our readers.

Many of those sharing their knowledge comprise the senior echelon of our armed citizen community’s influencers. I feel the pressure of passing time, knowing that eventually we must face the loss of these great minds. 

We were swamped with the detail work required to launch the Network 14 years ago when in July of 2007, I was staggered by the unexpected death of my mentor and friend Jim Cirillo. He’d informally agreed to serve on our Network Advisory Board, but we lost him before that became reality. His death really emphasized the need to spend time talking with those who have built the very foundations of American firearms training and use of force doctrine, creating in me an urgency learn from the masters.

Last year, Chuck Taylor died just weeks after a long phone visit in which he contributed to our report on preparing armed teachers in TX (see second half of, and as I work on this column, I see in the news that we have lost another of the elders, Elden Carl. It would be hard to study the defensive use of firearms, pistol equipment and accessories and dabble in competitive shooting without indirectly feeling his influence, so while not personally acquainted, I recognize the depth of what we have lost.

I wonder sometimes if I’m erring by not sharing Q & A with the upcoming tier of men and women who will guide the next generation of armed citizens. Still, I remain painfully aware that many of those contributing their knowledge to our educational outreach are of the older generation – like me. There’s only so much time and only so much room in the monthly journal! 

Fortunately, we’ve enjoyed instruction from both young and old viewpoints in the Attorney Question of the Month column that we started in the spring of 2009. Our Affiliated Attorneys voluntarily contribute their knowledge and experience, giving regional and state-level input to our national readership. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of men and women stepping up to help our members better understand the criminal justice system and the law and how we are all affected by laws and their enforcement.

I’ve written reviews of 152 books and videos since our first journal. This material, I devoutly hope, expands our learning opportunities to a broader variety of voices – many younger and from more diverse backgrounds. The book reviews have provided opportunities to cover the mental aspect of self-defense, as well as other topics that while not specifically focused on the legal defense of self defense, play a role. Still, we have assiduously avoided becoming just one more online “gun magazine” and have avoided covering guns and holsters in favor of giving our attention to issues bearing on self defense and its legal defense. More than enough gun writing is available; that is not our area of concern.

Ironically, I left behind over a decade’s striving as a gun writer to join the Network’s team of three founders. I had reviewed hundreds of guns and many holsters and related products. If there is one negative characteristic that plagues the firearms industry it is what is sarcastically termed “vapor wear.” A manufacturer or designer makes a promising prototype and before you know it, glossy pictures of the prototypes adorn magazine covers; trade shows display the single, precious experimental copy and consumers begin haranguing retail outlets for the opportunity to purchase the latest and greatest. Sometimes the prototype never even makes it into production. The whole charade would be enormously amusing were it not so frustrating.

I am going to close this month by hinting broadly at a new voice I expect to introduce to our readers in the months to come. A friend and Network affiliated instructor has very recently graduated from law school. This overachiever has agreed to help me with book reviews, to guide the Attorney Question of the Month column, and contribute as his time allows by conducting some of our lead interviews. This hint is the closest I am going to come to being part of the dreaded “vapor wear” business model, as we have not yet developed writing assignments, nor are there any finished articles in hand.

Still, I am so excited by the opportunity to add a fresh voice to mine that I couldn’t help but tell our readers to hold on, there’s a new viewpoint coming, and it is going to add interest and depth to this monthly journal. As the range officers say at shooting matches, “Stand by!” The fun is just beginning.

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