A few years ago the National Rifle Association launched a “self-defense insurance” program called Carry Guard. It is noteworthy that this Carry Guard “insurance” was backed by a well-established company, Lockton Insurance. (Carry Guard also included a training component, but for the purposes of this post we are focusing strictly on the “insurance” component.)
Carry Guard entered a market with numerous existing competitors offering similar products, including CCW Safe (a sponsor of this show), USCCA, Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network, various Law Shield offerings, and more.
I feel obliged to mention that I’m personally a Life-Benefactor member of the National Rifle Association, and have been a Life member for more than two decades. I’m also an NRA certified instructor in rifle, pistol, and personal protection, and have been that for more than two decades, as well. I also belief that the NRA, whatever it’s internal failings and weaknesses (and they are innumerable) remains the country’s premier Second Amendment advocacy organization, if only because of its sheer size.
In short, I have been and remain a fan of the National Rifle Association.
That said, I was never able to recommend the NRA Carry Guard “insurance” to members of the Law of Self Defense community—indeed, worse than that, I was largely obliged to described the Carry Guard “insurance” program as a garbage product that not only should not be preferred but which should be actively avoided.
Why was that? Because the Carry Guard “insurance” program was simply not fit for purpose.
The whole idea behind any self-defense “insurance” offering is that the provider will support you in your legal fight, should you be charged in a use-of-force event, by covering your legal expenses. And such support, if actually provided, can be enormously helpful, and perhaps make the difference between an acquittal and a conviction.
The legal expenses we’re talking about begin large and quickly get enormous. Even if all you’ve done is threaten to use your gun to deter an attacker, and you never end up firing a shot or hurting anyone, you could still be charged with aggravated assault with a firearm. That’s a felony offense that in some states is good for 20 years in prison if convicted, and the legal costs involved in defending against such a charge are proportional to the legal peril—think tens of thousands of dollars in a legal retainer just for the pre-trial work, and several-fold more if you actually go to trial.
If you actually use the gun and end up killing your attacker, you could find yourself charged with murder or manslaughter, and now you’re looking at 20 years to life in prison, often without possibility of early release. As you might expect, the legal costs go up with the increased seriousness of the charge, and now you’ can easily be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses pre-trial, and much more if you go to trial.
Most people don’t have a spare $100,000 sitting in a mattress just in case they find themselves targeted by a criminal predator, defend themselves, and find themselves criminally charged and compelled to make a self-defense case at trial. So what do they do?
Well, if people have resources they can liquidate into cash, they generally do that if the alternative is spending the rest of their lives in a cage alongside really unpleasant people. That means the home—sold. The business—sold. The retirement account—cashed out. Children’s college fund—cashed out.
Why this sacrifice? Because although we’d all like to think that how much money you have shouldn’t determine what kind of justice you get, the hard truth is that a legal battle is like any other battle, and in any battle the resources you can bring to the fight are a huge factor in the probability of winning that fight.
It’s no different in a court battle. There’s a huge difference in the prospects of getting an acquittal if the defendant is able to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into their legal defense versus a defendant who might hope to invest tens of thousands of dollars—or nothing at all.
What if a defender doesn’t have any assets to liquidate for a costly legal battle? Then they fight that legal battle with the limited resources they do have, often with a public defender as their lead counsel.
Now, it’s common for the public to perceive public defenders as less-than-capable attorneys. That would be a mistake. I’ve worked with many public defenders, and many of them are world-class attorneys.
The downside of a public defender isn’t one of legal competence. Rather, it’s the fact that they are almost always wildly overworked. As a result, the percent of their time available for your case is a fraction of what would be available from a private attorney. And that lawyer time is, like money, a vital resource for your legal battle. Your changes of winning don’t increase if your lawyer also has 40 other cases they are actively working on.
So, the value of any “self-defense insurance” program is that it solves that resource dilemma for you, by ensuring you’ll have the monetary resources you need to fight that legal battle for your life that follows the physical battle.
That, sadly, is precisely why NRA Carry Guard “insurance” program was not fit for purpose—because it was a reimbursement type of program that covered your legal expenses only after you were acquitted (that is, if you were acquitted), and provided little if any monetary resources for your legal fight prior to that acquittal.
In effect, then, NRA Carry Guard was offering to provide you with resources for the legal fight—but only AFTER that legal fight was over.
It’s as if a nation’s ally offered to provide the help of their army in war—but only if the nation first won the war themselves.
Folks, you don’t need the ally’s army AFTER you’ve won the fight, you need their army to win the fight in the first place.
Similarly, if you’re thinking about self-defense “insurance” be aware that their promised resources are only helpful if they are provided DURING the legal fight, not AFTER the legal fight.
If those resources are provided only AFTER the legal fight, then you’re waging that legal fight with only your own resources—meaning you’ve still sold the home, sold the business, etc. Reimbursement doesn’t get those back for you.
Alternatively, it means you’re being defended by that overworked public defender, with the accompanying lower risk of winning the fight because of limited legal resources (and in which case you won’t be reimbursed, anyway, because you didn’t pay anything for the public defender).
What you want is not a reimbursement-type self-defense “insurance” program, but rather one that covers your legal expenses as they are incurred. Because NRA Carry Guard was a reimbursement-type program it was, in our view, unfit for the intended purpose of resourcing its members to win the legal fight. As a result, we were never able to recommend it to the Law of Self Defense community.
As it happens, NRA Carry Guard program would quickly go defunct, and it is no longer being offered by the NRA, either as a self-defense “insurance” or training program.
The good news is that there are companies that do cover legal expenses as they are incurred, rather than merely as a reimbursement. The Armed Citizen Legal Defense Network does so—if their board approves your case for coverage, and up to the limits of their coverage. USCCA does so—if, it seems, they feel like it (see our cautionary blog post: “USCCA Sued in Federal Court: Refused to Cover Platinum Member?”) and even then only up to what I believe to be their entirely inadequate limits of their coverage for criminal defense.
One of the reasons Law of Self Defense has partnered with CCW Safe over their competitors is that CCW Safe BOTH provides coverage for legal expenses as they are incurred AND doesn’t place an artificial limit on that coverage.
That’s also why I’m personally a member of CCW Safe, and my wife Emily is personally a member of CCW Safe. I encourage you to take a look and see if they might be the best fit for you, as well, by clicking the image or link below:
And if you do decide to become a member, at that URL you can use the discount code LOSD10 to SAVE10% off your CCW Safe membership.
In any case, that explanation for why the NRA Carry Guard self-defense “insurance” program was not fit for purpose, bring us back full circle to the current self-defense “insurance” offering by Lockton.
It was recently brought to my attention that Lockton has begun offering its own version of self-defense “insurance.” In most respects the program appears similar to the now defunct NRA Carry Guard self-defense “insurance” for which Lockton was then the insurance backer. The details of that commonality are unimportant for the purposes of this post, so if there is any substantive variance I’ll not discuss that here.
What I want to focus on is the characteristic of the now offered Lockton self-defense insurance that makes it as unfit for purpose as the now defunct NRA Carry Guard “insurance”—and that is that the current Lockton offering remains a reimbursement-type of program.
Indeed, the Lockton Personal Firearms Liability Insurance website explicitly tells prospective members that its coverage for “Lawful Personal Defense” is available only “on a reimbursement basis”:
LAWFUL PERSONAL DEFENSE
Should you ever need to lawfully use a legally possessed firearm to defend yourself with reasonable use of force, Personal Firearms Liability Insurance will protect against the costs associated with a claim—on a reimbursement basis— once all charges are dropped, or you are acquitted of all charges, up to applicable policy limits.
If the reimbursement model of self-defense “insurance” made NRA Carry Guard unfit for purpose when Lockton was merely the insurance backer of that offering, the reimbursement model of self-defense “insurance” remains no less unfit for purpose when Lockton Insurance offers such a program to the market directly.
In closing, as always Law of Self Defense is not in the business of telling our community what to do or not to do. Rather our mission is to help our community make-well informed decisions, as they think best for their circumstances. Hopefully this post will help all of you make exactly such a well-informed decision for yourselves and your family.
Law of Self Defense: Self-Defense Insurance Course
For those of you interested in an in-depth explanation of self-defense “insurance” programs, how they work, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what to avoid, you might consider taking advantage of our just-launched up to 74% OFF sale on the Law of Self Defense” Self-Defense Insurance Course. Learn more by clicking the image or link below:
And that is it for me today. As always, folks, as I sign off, I urge all of you to keep in mind:
You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill.
Know the law so you’re hard to convict.
Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC
Law of Self Defense Platinum Protection Program