Four major self-defense insurance programs are now available to the millions of Americans who carry concealed.
What are some of the self-defense insurance organizations offering plans for responsible armed citizens?
- United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA)
- Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN)
- U.S. Law Shield
- NRA Carry Guard
According to a recent estimate by the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), more than 15 million Americans are now licensed to carry a firearm in the United States.
With that many and more legally licensed citizens — including those who keep guns strictly in the home for domestic protection, along with people who open carry or live in one of the dozen states that do not require licenses — the odds are increasing that someone will have to use their firearm to defend against a serious crime.
Realizing this possibility, at least four organizations have recognized the need for some type of coverage plans for the armed citizen who might someday act in self-defense. Unlike television, stopping a villain with lethal force isn’t the end of the drama — it’s often just the beginning.
Stepping up to the plate with protection programs are the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN), U.S. Law Shield and the National Rifle Association. Each has a slightly different approach to the challenge, because in this game, there are problems and there are solutions.
The hard truth is that most armed citizens simply have no idea of the legal minefield they step into the second they press the trigger. As more than one of the people we interviewed explained, from that moment, your life is changed forever.
Even if no criminal charge is filed, because we live in a litigious society, there are attorneys just chomping at the bit to make life miserable for armed citizens in civil court. That’s the reality. Defending a life with a firearm can break people — it can destroy life savings, families and jobs.
The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA)
Tim Schmidt, USCCA founder and president, told Gun Digest that he founded the organization in June 2011, because he had heard horror stories about law-abiding citizens who had defended themselves and subsequently found themselves in legal trouble.
“I didn’t think they should have been in trouble,” he recalled.
Schmidt discovered quickly that a lot of mainstream insurance companies did not want to be involved in providing coverage for such people, especially since there was limited data available. Today, six years later, that data exists.
“If you’re a typical gun-owning American and own a house, you’re likely to have an insurance claim one-third as often as a home claim,” Schmidt said. “But that claim on average will cost seven times as much as a home insurance claim.”
Schmidt then added, “Who doesn’t have insurance on their home?”
USCCA also has a training program, featuring qualified trainers who teach firearms and self-defense. Presently, there are hundreds of USCCA trainers across the country, and the program is growing.
Additionally, USCCA holds an annual Concealed Carry Expo. Next year’s event is slated in Louisville, Kentucky. There are training classes, firearms companies exhibiting and accessories manufacturers represented.
The USCCA program provides three levels of coverage for members:
- The Silver level, costing $13 monthly, or a $147 annual payment provides up to $300,000 in protection, including $250,000 for civil lawsuit defense and damages, and firearm theft protection. Also included is $50,000 for an immediate attorney retainer and up-front criminal defense, $2,500-$25,000 immediate bail bonding and $250 a day compensation while in civil court.
- USCCA’s Gold level provides up to $575,000 in protection, including $500,000 in civil suit defense and damages, plus firearm protection, and $75,000 for the attorney retainer and criminal defense. There’s $5,000 to $50,000 immediate bail bonding and $350 a day compensation while in civil court. All this is covered by a $247 annual membership or $22 monthly.
- The Platinum level offers up to $1,150,000 in total protection, including $1,000,000 for civil defense and damages, and gun protection, plus $150,000 for an immediate attorney retainer, $25,000 to $250,000 for immediate bail bonding and $500 per day compensation while in civil court. This membership level costs $347 annually or $30 per month.
For that, Schmidt said, “You are going to have one of the best pre-screened pro-Second Amendment criminal and civil defense attorneys.” This representation continues through the entire process.
Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN)
When veteran firearms instructor Marty Hayes created the ACLDN as a membership organization, he had already been teaching firearms and self-defense courses for several years. He started back in 1988 and has built a reputation not only as an instructor, but also as an expert witness.
As the founder and proprietor of the Firearms Academy of Seattle (FAS), Hayes has a background in law enforcement and a law degree. It was during the four years of law school that he formed the idea of creating “the network.” What was lacking, he recalled, was a funding mechanism.
However, that was solved with the participation of FAS students. Hayes set aside 25 percent of each fee to establish the ACLDN. His plan worked, and today there is more than $1 million in the network’s legal war chest.
An ACLDN membership costs $135 for the first year and $95 for renewals. For that, the network provides up to $25,000 to post bail in the event of an arrest following a self-defense incident. The network also forwards up to $25,000 to a member’s attorney after an incident.
Unlike other plans, there are no different levels of coverage for ACLDN members. Everyone has the same coverage, Hayes said. Each member’s legal fees associated with a legitimate use of self-defense force are covered, including pre-trial, trial, appeals and civil court.
A portion of the annual member dues is deposited in the Legal Defense Fund’s account. The ACLDN has an advisory board that consists of noted experts in the field of firearms and self-defense: John Farnam, Massad Ayoob, Jim Fleming, Emanuel Kapelsohn, Tom Givens and Dennis Tueller.
“People need to be able to defend their actions in court,” Hayes explained. “You hope you never get involved in an incident. But if you do, you’re going to want a network, and you will get an attorney and [be able to] pay for an attorney.”
Of particular interest is the network affiliates, which include gun shops across the country. There are also corporate sponsors, affiliated attorneys and affiliated instructors.
Like Schmidt, Hayes said that in today’s legal environment, every armed citizen should consider the kinds of programs that the various plans provide to be essential. What happens after a self-defense incident can quickly become a minefield. This is why ACLDN provides updates to its members.
U.S. Law Shield
A dire need for protection was evident to Kirk Evans and P.J. Hermosa, the president and executive director, respectively, at U.S. Law Shield, a Texas-based program that actually started in the Lone Star State and has expanded. Now operating in 15 states with more expansion on the horizon, U.S. Law Shield is popular with its 235,000-plus members for a number of reasons.
An attorney by profession, Evans said people enroll “to have full legal defense in the event they have to use a firearm.”
“The foundation of our program is education,” Evans explained. “Last year we put on about 4,500 seminars on the ins and outs of lawful gun ownership.”
Seminars are offered wherever there’s an adequate facility, such as a gun shop with a classroom, a gun range — even a restaurant banquet room.
Hermosa said the program promotes tactical training and live-fire shooting.
“We’re here to train and educate, based on laws in the states,” he said. “We want people to be comfortable in the law.”
This information offers state-specific content that people need to know, Hermosa said.
The program started in 2009 as Texas Law Shield following a self-defense event that exposed what people can go through in the legal system, even if they are in the right.
“We are about empowering people every day,” Hermosa added.
U.S. Law Shield has attorneys in each of its states of operation, and each is heavily vetted to ensure the highest quality of legal expertise.
In the event of a self-defense incident for a member, everything is covered “from start to finish,” Evans said. There’s a hotline for members, and Evans said the group receives one or two calls every day dealing with a specific incident. For this level of service, members pay $10.95 per month or an annual payment of $131.40, and coverage for minor children is an additional $24 annually or $2 per month.
There’s also a rate for couples of $21.90 per month or $240 annually. For an additional $2.95 a month or $35.40 per year, each member can get multi-state protection.
Across the 15 active states, there are about 2,400 different gun ranges, stores and facilities that recommend the U.S. Law Shield program, he added. Members can pay either by the month or an annual fee, and there are a couple of options.
Member benefits include coverage whether the gun is fired or not, and there’s an emergency hotline answered 24/7 by an attorney. Members receive legal representation for both criminal and civil cases and firearms law updates, according to their website.
NRA Carry Guard
Unveiled at the April gathering of the National Rifle Association in Atlanta, the NRA Carry Guard program is an ambitious undertaking considering the already well-established competition.
According to Josh Powell, NRA chief of staff and executive director of general operations, he had discussed the project with Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. It made sense because the NRA has been on the front lines to expand concealed carry in the United States for more than three decades. Powell estimated that there are approximately 18 million people who carry, including those who lawfully carry without a permit.
“We needed to be the place to come as it relates to concealed carry,” Powell added. “If you carry, you need to be with the NRA.”
“This is critical,” Powell explained, “because people don’t understand what your exposure is as a citizen if, God forbid, you use a firearm in self-defense.”
“Depending upon where you live,” he stressed, “your life is going to be turned upside-down. Most people don’t understand that.”
There are three levels of coverage in the NRA Carry Guard program:
- The Bronze level provides $250,000 in coverage for $154.95 annually or $13.95 per month, according to the Carry Guard website.
- The Silver membership comes with $500,000 in insurance, for an annual fee of $254.95 or $21.95 per month.
- NRA Carry Guard’s Gold membership level comes with $1 million in insurance for $359.95 annually or a monthly premium of $31.95.
There’s much more to this than peace of mind, Powell assured.
“We’ve hired the dream team of instructors,” he said.
The instructor team includes people with military and law enforcement backgrounds, and the course of instruction covers all the bases.
“There really isn’t anything out there quite like this,” Powell said, noting that he has gone through the course.
This course includes an introductory section, range time that includes moving and shooting and working under pressure. Powell noted that there are no participation ribbons. Students are graded on their performance.
There are force-on-force scenarios and exercises that teach how to respond to carjackings or incidents in a convenience store. All of this is designed to help armed citizens make decisions in fractions of a second.
Like USCCA, the NRA will be holding an annual expo, with the inaugural event Aug. 25-27, 2017, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Wisconsin Center. The event will feature exhibitors, plus education opportunities.
“We’ve generated a tremendous network of attorneys,” Powell added. “You will have an advocate who will be advocating on your behalf from the beginning to the end of the process.”
That, essentially, is what each of these plans offer: an advocate rather than just a public defender who might, or might not, have a full grasp of self-defense, much less any sympathy for an armed citizen. It might come as no shock at all to many people, but not all attorneys sympathize with gun owners who fire in self-defense.
People can take their chances with a public defender, or they can rely on the experts associated with these membership programs. Clearly, a lot of thought went into each of these efforts, and the ultimate beneficiary is the armed citizen.
Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the Concealed Carry special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Now through August 31, 2017, we’re offering Gun Digest 2018 and a one-year subscription to Gun Digest the Magazine together for one low price. This incredible package offers in-depth features penned by industry experts, with the most up-to-date gun and gear reviews and news.