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Editor’s Notebook

Unfinished Discussions

by Gila Hayes

Last month, I introduced the topic that fueled most of this month’s Letters from Members column. I was pleased to receive your responses, although I really expected more, in light of the January brouhaha in the national news about Obama & Co. working to expand prohibitions on gun ownership based on mental health problems. It is not a new issue, and in fact, if you missed it, you might be interested to browse back to a September opinion piece by attorney Mark O’Mara on the topic at

In noting that there is no identifiable link between persons who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment and those who committed mass shooting atrocities, O’Mara’s column makes one more strong argument that protecting society from murderous notoriety-seekers cannot be successfully accomplished by government.

It underscores that only individual citizens and families can make a real difference in preventing mass murders, and realistically there is little useful intervention government can exert, as I expressed in last month’s editorial. If we fail to control what can only be interdicted on an individual, one-on-one level, the backlash of governmental overreaching is inevitable. We’re already seeing it in the CT troubles.

Break the Law; Go it Alone

A fractious discussion in which I was involved a few weeks ago leads me to my next line of thought.

A while back, I spoke with an affiliated instructor who expressed disappointment that the Network would not draw from the Legal Defense Fund to defend him if he was involved in self defense while carrying a gun illegally (without a state-issued permit). To tell the truth, it wasn’t a very pleasant exchange, with the gentleman exclaiming with asperity, “Then what good is the Network?” Not wanting to leave the discussion on that note, I rhetorically asked, “Do you carry illegally all the time?” certain that was not the case. “Of course I do not,” he exclaimed, offended, then added, “Only in states where there is no reciprocal license available.”

We both chuckled then, and with the tension broken I went on to explain that the Network’s bright-line rule is based upon two concerns. First, we cannot be in the position of encouraging members to brazenly break laws, assured that someone else will foot their legal bill. Second, it is my contention that no matter how good your legal team, it is not reasonable to expect to easily separate the illegal concealed weapon from the facts of justifiable self defense. If it can be done successfully, it will entail additional work on the part of the lawyers involved. I believe using the Network members’ Legal Defense Fund to defend the self-defense actions of a member who chose to break the law would unfairly deplete the resources of the Fund, fighting a case that was excessively complicated by the illegal carry issue.

A few days later, I was surprised to find Network Affiliated Attorney and noted legal author Andrew Branca discussing a similar topic in a column he writes for Because as an attorney Branca speaks with greater authority on this issue, I hope you will click on the link at the end of this commentary and read everything he wrote on the question.

It was eerie how closely Branca’s first paragraph mirrored my earlier discussion. Branca words it thus: “From a classical self-defense perspective, whether the weapon used in self defense is lawfully possessed doesn’t really matter… Nevertheless, the use of an unlawfully carried weapon in self defense—indeed, the mere unlawful possession of the weapon—can have profoundly negative effects on your self-defense claim under certain circumstances.”