by Gila Hayes

One of the duties I cover for the Network is answering requests from the public for detailed information about Network membership. My email in box occasionally produces some pretty interesting explorations of how the Network provides assistance to members after self defense.

In mid-August a gentleman emailed asking to see the fine print explaining how the Network decides to pay a member’s legal fees after they run afoul of the law. He put it in an interesting way:

“So the Network helps with legal action resulting from self defense, but I’m curious how narrow or broad this is applied. Self defense isn’t just shooting someone it’s being prepared (carrying for example) and being proactive (brandishing for example). Are possible charges resulting from these things covered?”

He went on to provide examples from his experiences, including arrest after a security guard spotted his firearm while he was involved in an argument in public, an obstruction arrest after addressing a female deputy by a gender-specific epithet, and other situations he cited to show, in his words, that he is not one to “shy away.”

He asked if the Network would decline assistance if he is found “technically guilty of a crime that shouldn’t be a crime?” He added that jurisdictions in which he lives and to which he frequently goes, mandate knife blade lengths that are shorter than the knife he typically carries. Would the Network pay for a lawyer to get him out of trouble for violation of those statutes?

His closing question was intriguing, and it inspired me to share this exchange in my commentary this month. He wrote that he liked what he had read about the Network, but wanted to know if our assistance to members was more concerned with the “letter” of the law or the “spirit” and were we “Looking to push the law, test cases etc.?”

I spent an unusual amount of time working out the answers, as I had initially been quite worried by some of his examples, and honestly felt considerable concern about encouraging membership. I’ll summarize, as some of the questions merely dealt with the Network paying attorney fees for representation after members’ non-gun defenses (we do), and criminal history/background affecting eligibility for membership (see our applicant’s statement at the bottom of the webpage at attesting that “I am not legally prohibited from possessing firearms,” etc.)

I was most concerned by my correspondent’s declaration that he does not “shy away” presumably from conflict, so while trying not to sound preachy, I replied that a common reason a scrappy person’s use of force is not actually justifiable self defense is, if through their aggressive nature, they initiated the fight as opposed to being an innocent victim who was endangered by a criminal’s aggression. While it is true that one reason armed citizens carry guns is to avoid being victimized by criminals, there is a tremendous difference between shrugging off an insult or non-injurious offense and cowering in fear of serious injury or losing your life. Walk away or decisively disengage, “Sorry! I’m leaving now!” instead of trading words until the argument escalates into a hands-on fight. We prepare and provide for the possible necessity of self defense to avoid being killed or crippled by a violent assailant, not to avoid insult or an apparent loss of face.

Heinlein’s oft-quoted comment that an armed society is polite applies only if both sides acknowledge that both can inflict deadly harm on the other. Armed citizens have no business engaging in arguments merely to save face just because they think by carrying a gun they can keep from being shot, stabbed or bludgeoned. It’s not even realistic! In the heat of an argument, do you know for sure that the person woofing in your face isn’t equally well armed and maybe just a smidgen faster or more accurate? The law certainly does not know, and it is going to bring the power of the criminal justice system to bear against you as it tries to prove whether or not you escalated the confrontation and then introduced deadly force into a spat from which you could have simply walked away.

I felt compelled to respond to the question of the Network providing attorney fees to defend members  charged with “crimes that shouldn't be crimes” by explaining–

You asked about being charged for violations of blade length laws. For the Network to pay an attorney to defend the member, the member must have been in compliance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the incident occurs. More importantly, though, please understand that our Network members are law-abiding citizens who join the Network because they fully understand that the criminal justice system all too often mistakes a necessary use of force in self defense for assault, manslaughter or murder. It was to protect our members from these serious miscarriages of justice that the Network was founded. None of our Network members are interested in pushing the law or becoming test cases, etc. That is not why the Network was founded nor is it why we enjoy the strong support of our membership base.

There are so many genuine instances of prosecutors pursuing political agendas, law enforcement viewing any use of force as criminal instead of justifiable use of force in self defense, and too many juries in front of whom law-abiding Americans lack the resources to put expert witnesses on the stand to explain clearly and compellingly why the good man or woman charged with murder or manslaughter had no choice but to use his or her gun in self defense, that the Network must not fritter away its Legal Defense Fund on unjustifiable cases or use of force through illegal means.

Written communication is horribly hampered by the absence of vocal inflections and loss of ability to read body language. It is often impossible to ascertain who is a seeker after truth and who is just pushing to see how you jump! The challenge is not to be overly suspicious when someone confesses to having several misdemeanors on their record, while not throwing open wide the door to someone who is going to behave recklessly hoping we’ll pay an attorney to get them out of hot water! Sheesh! I think I need a vacation. Fortunately, I’m heading to Gunsite the last week of this month. Bravo!

Click here to return to September 2016 Journal to read more.