Roughly six percent of Americans now have carry licenses. They’ve chosen to take proactive steps to keep their families safe. Prudent people will do two things to further their personal and family safety:
1. They seek knowledge and training on how to avoid and deescalate a conflict, and if necessary how to effectively use their gun to defend themselves or their family.
2. They give serious thought to buying some “concealed carry insurance” – particularly in this time of politics entering decisions on whether or not to prosecute good guys who ventilate bad guys. If you discharge your firearm in self-defense, legal costs can quickly overwhelm most people. Do you want to do that do yourself and your family?
First off, these concealed carry “insurance” policies are not really insurance, per se. Insurance covers accidents and Acts of God. Your homeowner’s policy doesn’t typically cover intentional acts against another person. Punching Mongo the Mauler’s ticket with your handy dandy S&W .44 Magnum is very much a deliberate and intentional act. Yes, you intentionally shot him. State Farm will not cover your criminal defense. What happens if Mongo’s sweet little girl next-of-kin sues you for cutting short her father’s life with your Dirty Harry commemorative revolver? State Farm won’t pay to defend that either.
In contrast to homeowners insurance, concealed carry “insurance” or “legal defense” policies reimburse you for legal expenses. They typically pay following acquittal with most companies. Some make a big deal about putting you up in a hotel for a day or two or other ancillary benefits. In the end though, they reimburse you for legal expenses up to the policy limit. Lawyers charge big bucks and those bills can add up quickly. Doubt me? Just ask George Zimmerman.
How it works
Most of the CCW “insurance” options out there will pay a retainer up front to your attorney. The amount varies by policy, typically $5,000 – $20,000. The companies then pay the balance after your acquittal, reimbursing you for your costs over that amount up to the policy limit. Limits vary wildly, as do policy fees. Most companies will also cover your legal defense in subsequent civil suits, within the limits of the policy, of course.
How much coverage?
What do you need in the way of coverage? It depends™. Do you patronize the Dewdrop Inn looking for recreational pharmaceuticals and companionship at late hours? Do you drink while carrying? Have a hot temper? Do you do stupid things, in stupid places with stupid or not-so-stupid people? While driving, are you practiced in the art of the single-digit salute? If you do one or more of the above, look for a policy with larger coverage. Or better yet, get policies from multiple companies.
For most of us who carry prudently and live responsibly and soberly, we probably won’t need a whole lot of coverage. In fact, if you act to the standard by which you will be judged (and if you’ve been a legal lecture, you’ve heard that before) then most of the time modest coverage is more than enough.
In fact, if it’s a righteous shoot, a $5,000 or $10,000 retainer will usually get you back home to your family within a day or two at most. The same goes for a righteous stabbing. They usually cover self-defense with any tool.
It’s those George Zimmerman-style cases that make everyone’s sphincters tighten up. Righteous shoots sometimes do get prosecuted. After all, prosecutors like winning re-election. When mobs of their constituents threaten to burn their community down in “peaceful protests”, sometimes these prosecutors listen.
Want another reason to sign up for some CCW insurance? What happens when you are on vacation or business halfway across country. Some wiseacre tries to perform thoracic surgery on you with his Buck knife, but you rapidly and promiscuously perforate him instead. What then?
Reputable CCW insurance companies will have a referral list of skilled defense attorneys. Even in Montgomery, Alabama where I personally almost smoked a would-be armed robber on my honeymoon. (Another link, with videos) I cleared my shirt and put my hand on Mr. Glock. I non-verbally explained what was going to happen next if he continued his course of action. Thankfully, he found Jesus and chose wisely to go back from where he came.
Another bonus of membership in the more reputable companies are the educational materials they provide. It’s in their best interest to make you a more informed customer – especially for folks who haven’t gotten any formal training in legal considerations to using deadly force.
Videos and written materials may be sent to you, depending on the company, once you’ve enrolled in coverage. More materials will likely be available online.
Armed Citizens Defense Network, for instance, sends their customers a series of DVDs and a host of other educational materials. Some of the DVDs are better than others, but a couple by Massad Ayoob are top shelf. I paid $800 to watch them twenty years ago as part of my Lethal Force Institute training, and you’re getting copies to keep and re-watch for a $135 annual membership. That’s pretty sweet.
My advice is to steer clear of any legal defense insurance company that doesn’t offer educational materials and an attorney referral list.
I have looked into six or eight of these companies and two stand out to me.
I’m a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network (ACLDN). For $135/year, they offer a $10,000 automatic retainer to an attorney of my choice if I’m charged. If I’m outside of my local area in Central Illinois, they can refer an attorney to me. Additional household members can be added for $60 each. They offer steep discounts for multi-year signups.
ACLDN has a panel of experts who will look at your case. Their experts include Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Dennis Tueller, Marty Hayes and others. IF their panel of experts deems your case a righteous use of force, they will write additional checks for attorneys fees and/or expert witnesses before or during a trial. That’s right: The ACLDN pays coverage, up to their limits (currently about $400,000!), before the verdict.
They are the only company that does this. All of the others I’m aware of reimburse you for legal defense costs after a not-guilty verdict and any appeals are exhausted.
If you’re like me, you don’t have $50,000 sitting (rotting away?) in the bank just waiting to keep financing your legal defense team from Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe to continue working on getting you acquitted.
I also like the US Concealed Carry Association. Like the ACLDN, they have a tremendous bevy of educational materials and have the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They have attorneys they can refer you to, along with expert witnesses. Their Concealed Carry Magazine is slick, full-color and very professionally done. I subscribe to it and I don’t even have their insurance.
USCCA has a host of policies. They range from $150 – $350 per year. What’s more, they offer monthly payments, too.
Unlike ACLDN, the USCCA pays all but the retainer following an acquittal. That will be months or even years after the incident.
Fair warning: You’ll notice right out of the gate at their website, the USCCA hits you with a full-court press. Auto-play videos and more. USCCA will blizzard your e-mail account with tons of marketing stuff. They relentlessly send you “offers” and “opportunities”. That problem is easily solved with a throwaway email address, but most people don’t know about the aggressive marketing until it’s too late.
I have less of a working knowledge of some of the other companies. They vary in coverage and cost. Some are multi-level marketing (sort of like Amway), others are more like traditional insurance in the sense they are offered by insurance companies. In any event, investigate as you will, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably find ACLDN or USCCA as among the best products out there.