gila 300

To Encourage Law Breaking

by Gila Hayes

That’s the reality in calls and messages telling the Network to open up the Legal Defense Fund to pay legal expenses if a member knowingly breaks laws restricting gun possession then uses their gun in self defense. As responsible stewards of the Legal Defense Fund, we have to compare calls for us to pay those legal expenses against requests to fund legal defense if other laws are violated during an incident of self defense.

Where, on this slippery slope, are we to draw the line? Consider parallel requests to join the Network from applicants with felony convictions, some from the War on Drugs, felony DUI or past domestic violence.

The applicants feel that rising crime dictates they must possess a gun illegally or risk being killed. Also recognizing their legal peril, they want to join the Network in case their fears materialize and they use their illegally-possessed gun to stop an attack.

Suppose the Network gave in to the pressure we’re getting to pay legal expenses for those willfully violating the law. How long would it be before entities hostile to the very concept of armed self defense declared our services to members to be against public policy and fined or sued the organization into oblivion? As Network leaders, we bear the burden of nurturing and growing this resource for legal defense of our law-abiding members. I cannot imagine the shame of admitting we risked and lost the ability to provide that core element of our service to you. We must not irresponsibly endanger the organization’s long-term viability and larger purpose by taking the easy way out and knuckling under to poorly thought-out demands that, if granted, would encourage lawbreaking.

Pondering Civil Disobedience

Wishes to ignore unconstitutional laws raise the question of what justifies civil disobedience. I read a speech at by the late Morris Leibman, an attorney and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, who said, “While the idea of civil disobedience may evoke sympathy where the claim is made that the cause is just, once we accept such a doubtful doctrine we legitimatize it for other causes which we might reject. This society provides more than any other for orderly change; where every minority—including the minority of one—has been protected by a system of law which provides for orderly process for development and change. I cannot accept the right to disobey where, as here, the law is not static and where, if it is claimed to be oppressive or coercive, many effective channels for change are constantly available.” The process for change recommended by Leibman is, of course, fraught with hardship.

Orderly Change

Despite being bombarded with insurrectionist rhetoric, I do not believe we are at the cartridge box phase of Frederick Douglass’ word picture that “the liberties of the American people were dependent upon the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the cartridge-box.” We have much hard work ahead of us before even considering that an option.

We must return honest elections to America so we can rebuild liberties progressive politicians have destroyed. At the grassroots level, that requires electing sheriffs, prosecutors and judges who trust working-class Americans’ common sense.

It falls to us to educate the public about legitimate use of force, including deadly force and justification to resort to it in defense of innocent life, so that Americans understand what they are dealing with when asked to sit in the jury box and judge a fellow citizen who had to decide whether to use force in self defense or be killed or crippled by a violent criminal.

I cannot see any path by which civil disobedience by individuals, or encouraged by organizations like the Network, or promoted by political parties, would set our nation back on the path to liberty and justice. I have to agree with Kurt Schlichter, whose book we reviewed last month, that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by civil war. If he’s wrong and it is time for insurrection, then for Heaven’s sake take action openly, not covertly. What is gained by sneaky end-runs around the rule of law instead of openly declaring a cause and pledging your life, liberty and resources to fight for change?

Are demands that the Network lower its standards just emotional outbursts fueled by frustration or have those callers and correspondents genuinely committed to revolt against lawfully constituted authority? If so, are they willing to bear the expense of their actions or are they hoping the Network will pay the bills, freeing them to violate the law instead of working to change it?

Our all-too-human tendency to say, “Someone ought to relieve me of this burden (so I don’t have to personally suffer)” becomes a real concern when expressed inside an organization of like-minded men and women who are dedicated to standing together when one is targeted for malicious prosecution or lawsuit after defending self or family. 14 years of exchanging ideas with members shows that a great majority of members factor in gun laws when choosing where to vacation, recreate or work and live if their convictions as self-sufficient men and women are at odds with the laws of the destinations or locations they’re considering. Some have given up close ties to friends, access to cultural events, and walked away from successful jobs to move to conservative states where laws better reflect their beliefs. This is how they lived their lives long before they joined our Network family. These men and women gravitated to us in the same way people who share core values and beliefs have formed communities both virtual and literal since time immemorial. The direction the Network takes must honor their values.

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