Book Review – The Law of Self Defense by Andrew F. Branca

Book Review – The Law of Self Defense by Andrew F. Branca

I recently read The Law of Self Defense by Andrew F. Branca. Andrew is a fellow member on the Legal Advisory Board for the USCCA. He is an attorney in his third decade of law practice, a former Guest Instructor and subject matter expert on self defense law at the Sig Sauer Academy, an NRA Life-Benefactor member, an NRA Certified Instructor, an IDPA Charter/Life member (IDPA #13), and a Master-class competitor in multiple IDPA divisions. Andrew also teaches lawyers how to argue self defense cases as a certified instructor with the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) system in numerous states around the country.

The Law of Self Defense

With that background, you might assume this is a legal book full of legalese that only lawyers can understand or want to read. To the contrary, Andrew’s book is written to the average person who either carries a gun for self defense or who is considering doing so. It is straightforward and easy to understand. The book provides a general overview of self defense law in the United States with practical information and real-life examples from case law and media reports.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen statements and quotes in social media and online forums about “the law” that are not only wrong, but frighteningly wrong. Some people read an article in the news or hear a story about an outcome of an event in one jurisdiction and assume it applies to every jurisdiction in every state. As Andrew details in his book, each jurisdiction is different. Not only is each jurisdiction different, but much of the determination as to whether you will be prosecuted will be made by a prosecutor at the local level. What is legal in Texas may not be legal in Ohio or some other state. The attitudes of the people in these states differ also which inevitably impacts what the local prosecutor decides to do. Do you know the law in your state? Do you know whether defense of property is legal in your state or under what circumstances? I would argue this is crucial information for someone who carries a weapon in self defense.

If you are in the fight for your life, for the life of your spouse or your children or your parents, you MUST win. Period.

After Andrew explains the five elements of self defense, he discusses the use of self defense to protect property and others and provides information about strategy in protecting yourself. In the back of the book are handy tables with state specific legal information. This book makes you think, and thinking about how to prepare, how to handle yourself, what is smart, and what’s not is a good thing. It also is better to consider these things now while drinking a cup of coffee than trying to figure it out when you are in the moment, with time seeming to pass in slow motion, with your heart is racing, when your breathing is shallow, when your stress is high, with your adrenaline surging, and with panic setting in. Better to consider them now instead of after this event is over, and the stress response settles in, and you are not thinking clearly.

But winning the physical contest is far from the end of the matter. Not hardly. Because now begins the legal battle.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I recommend it…for anyone, whether you are a lawyer, an instructor, or someone who carries a weapon for self defense.  The book will make you consider your actions and give you an understanding of how the legal process will unfold should you be forced to use your weapon to save your life or the life of someone you love.

You can purchase the book here. If you purchase today, use the promotional code CRYSTAL, and you will get 50% off. This is a smart purchase in my opinion.


Texas House Bill 1911 (Permitless Carry) Passes Committee

House Bill 1911 Moves Forward in Effort to Bring Permitless Carry to Texas

Yesterday, the Republican members of the House committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety voted along party lines to pass House Bill 1911 by Rep. James White (R-Hillister) out of committee. HB 1911, referred to as Permitless Carry, would permit a Texan eligible under state law to acquire a License to Carry to carry a handgun without a license. You can find history on the Bill here.

Texas banned open and concealed carry of handguns in 1871 with the passage of “An Act to Regulate the Keeping and Bearing of Deadly Weapons,” which was passed as part of the Reconstruction. It was not until 1996 that Texans were able to obtain a Concealed Handgun License for the lawful carry of concealed handguns. Proponents of HB 1911 hope to restore Texas to the pre-1871 time when no license was required for the open or concealed carry of firearms.

God bless Texas!

USCCA’s Annual Concealed Carry Expo

The USCCA‘s Annual Concealed Carry Expo is in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend, April 7-9, 2017. There will be over 100 vendors and exhibitors. There also will be many opportunities for you to obtain information on various concealed tactical and legal issues.

On Saturday, I have the honor of speaking on Texas Open Carry and Gun Laws at the Expo. I also will present information on the Second Amendment, with attorney, Joshua Prince, and participate in a panel discussion on the Self-Defense Trial Walk-Through and Panel Discussion with attorneys, Tim Forshey, Mike Daniels and Derek DeBrosse.

The Expo even has a Women’s Concealed Carry Showroom where you can see, touch, and even try on new products created just for women. I will be available off and on over the weekend in the Women’s area to answer questions.

I look forward to a great show and hope to see you there!

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2017 Texas Association of Defense Counsel Winter Meeting

2017 Texas Association of Defense Counsel Winter Meeting

Sabrina Karels will present her paper, The Wild Wild West: How the New Texas Gun Laws Affect Your Practice and Your Clients, at the 2017 Texas Association of Defense Counsel Winter Seminar in Beaver Creek, Colorado.


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USCCA Legal Advisory Board and Concealed Carry Expo

USCCA Legal Advisory Board

I am proud and humbled to serve on the Legal Advisory Board for the United States Concealed Carry Association. The USCCA is the first and largest member-owned association dedicated to educating, training, and insuring responsibly armed Americans.

Concealed Carry Expo April 7-9, 2017

As part of my role with the LAB, I am a presenter at the Concealed Carry Expo in Fort Worth, Texas on April 7-9, 2017. I hope to see you there.

SHOT Show 2017

I will be at SHOT Show Monday through Thursday for legal services. If you are in attendance, I would love to say hello. Please email me or if you see me walking around the floor, please stop me and say hi. I look forward to seeing you, and I will post and update after the Show. Have a great Show!

Stay safe. Stay ready. Stay armed.


A Call to Service

A Call to Service

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It is humbling today to think of the sacrifices many have made for our country, for our way of life, for our very existence. While I always try to thank those in uniform for their service, those who have served often are never recognized on the street and never fully thanked or appreciated. Today and every day, I offer my heartfelt and profound gratitude for those who served our country in the armed forces.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

~ John F. Kennedy

I have watched with great sadness the harsh and angry words of the ideological differences dividing our country. It further disheartens me when I see that the one day set aside to honor veterans is clouded by these political trials and tribulations. So, today, I wanted to take a special moment to offer my words of appreciation to Veterans and thoughts of peace and accord for the nation.

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy course; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

~ Theodore Roosevelt

What makes a person want to become a soldier? What gives them the courage to leave their families and friends and willingly devote their lives to the causes of a country? The answer, I believe, resides in the heart of every human. Haven’t we all felt a greater calling to something—a cause for which we would die? A task which strengthens us, defines us, and challenges us? Whether you choose to be a soldier, a parent, a marathoner, an Olympic athlete, or a teacher, it is a choice to better yourself and your world. Soldiers choose a path to become stalwart, courageous, and sacrificing. While I know there are many who do not believe in all of the causes our military is tasked to defend, I would hope everyone can at least appreciate the noble and selfless nature of their acts, understanding their defining and challenging moments are for the country in which we live.

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms.  It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.

~ G. K. Chesterton

When I speak to those who have served, I often am humbled and inspirited by the reason behind their choice. It is a calling like any other. Some people feel a call to heal or to write or to preach. In our own ways, each of us has been called for something. Even if you do not agree with the impetus or substance of another’s call, surely you must appreciate and respect the desire, passion, and fervent nature of a calling. While we can commiserate in the internal longing and depth of passion attendant to those calls, the call to service is unique. A soldier is willing to die for and defend the life of someone whom they have never seen and never met. Their call to service comes not from love of self but for the love of many. Their call is dangerous, unnerving, and unwavering.

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.

~ Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

I have witnessed the lamentations of those hoping for the first female President. In that vein, let me show you a few of the women who inspire me and who, years before, proved the strength, tenacity, and courage of women in the fight for justice, equality, and freedom–women who fought and served alongside men and shored the foundation of liberty.

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!

~ Maya Angelou

sessionsMarguerite M. Sessions, Nurse, United States Navy. From her daughter:

“Marguerite Sessions was a Navy nurse during WWII and met my father who was a marine who was her patient at Great Lakes, Illinois.  They met and were married about a year later and November 28th would be their 70th Anniversary.  They had a long and happy marriage raising five kids and instilling in all of us love for our country, commitment to service, and tremendous respect for those that serve in the military. As a result, two of my brothers enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War seeing action on the Macon Delta. They brought home with them a new view of the world loyalty and honor for having served our country during that difficult time.  My father died at age 50 when I was six years old, and my mother, through the strength gained not only from her parents but also through her service in the Navy, raised her five children with the grace of an iron butterfly.

morrisSusan Morris, United States Navy 1994-1999

“Growing up, both my dad and stepdad were in the Air Force. As a child, it was hard to continuously move around, but it was my family’s life. I remember thinking when I was younger, I will never be in the military, but when I got older, I realized there was more than just moving to be in the military: Love of Country, Pride, learned confidence, lifelong friendships, and earned free college education, just to name a few. I’ve been asked before if you could turn back time, would you do it again. With no hesitation, my answer would be, ‘Hell Yes!’”

drayton2                   drayton1

Denise Drayton, United States Army, 1988-1993

“Reason for joining…my dad. I wanted to be just like him. He was my hero.”


Christine Johnson, civilian Naval employee, and husband, William, U.S. Navy

“I was in charge of setting up and running events around Houston that promoted the recruitment of active duty Navy personnel. There was a certain pride working with the Navy. My husband, Will, was an aircraft mechanic and was part of Desert Storm and the Iraq war. He was at sea when 9/11 happened. He says he’d have stayed in after retirement, if they had let him.”

In their own ways, each of these women heeded a call to serve the military and others. They were role models for other young women on the value and honor of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. I am proud to call each of them and their families, my friends. They move me to be better, to try harder, and to honor my own call for my life.

Happy Veteran’s day to all of you who have served. Thank you for your sacrifice, your commitment, and your love for our country. Thank you for your call to serve.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

~ John 15:13


Lawsuit Against Manufacturer Dismissed

Lawsuit Against Manufacturer Dismissed

State Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis has thrown out the lawsuit filed against a firearms manufacturer brought by the families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. The lawsuit originally was filed against Remington Outdoor Co.; the dealer, Camfour Inc.; and the company that owned the gun store; Riverview Sales.  See the news report here.  See the opinion here.



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Do I Need It and What Am I Getting?

You learned to shoot. You purchased a firearm. You took the course to obtain your license to carry. Then, you see a story on the news, and now you’re wondering what happens if you ever have to shoot in self-defense. Will I be arrested? Will I be sued?

When people learn I have experience in the firearms law, I often receive questions about the best options for self-defense legal coverage and whether these plans are worth the money. Like many decisions in life, it depends. It depends on your personal preferences and individual concerns. It depends on your comfort level and how much you worry about a situation like this. It depends on how you perceive the risk.

Fortunately, the decision whether to have a legal services plan or liability insurance if you have a concealed carry permit is still your choice to make because as of today’s date, no state requires such coverage. Depending on where you live, there are several options available to procure coverage for legal services in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting. The most prominent of those providers (based upon advertising, membership, and visibility) are CCW Safe, Second Call Defense, Texas Law Shield or U.S. Law Shield, and United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA). There are many others, including an NRA program popular with its members, and the information in this article will provide considerations applicable to other plans.

When I speak with people about their purchase of self-defense legal services or self-defense insurance (which I collectively will refer to as self-defense coverage), I find most do not know the extent of their protection. They just know they are “covered.” I reached out to each of the four plans to ask specific questions. I only received responses from only CCW Safe and USCCA. I also reviewed the protection plans provided by the companies and noted the differences. I removed all of the legalese to explain what the differences mean to you in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting.


First, you need an understanding of the potential liability facing you in the event you are involved in a self-defense shooting. If you use your weapon to defend yourself, not only could you face a criminal charge, but you also could be subject to civil liability if the individual or his or her family files a lawsuit against you. These two areas of liability are separate, involve different rules in most states, and the resolution of one may have no impact on the resolution of the other. As some may recall, even though O.J. Simpson went to trial and was acquitted of murder charges, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman prevailed in a civil suit for wrongful death against him. Thus, even if you never have criminal charges filed against you or prevail in a criminal trial, depending on your state, you still may face a civil lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death if you shoot someone in self-defense (Florida is an exception providing for immunity from civil liability if a shooting is justified).

Second, the one factor both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions have in common is they are exceedingly expensive. Both typically will require you retain a lawyer to represent you. Attorneys’ fees and expenses for a civil lawsuit for personal injury damages or wrongful death damages may range between $100,000 to $200,000 through trial, excluding appeal, depending on the hourly rate of the lawyer, the complexity of the issues, the number of witnesses, and the jurisdiction involved. Depending on the charges and publicity of a criminal trial, it too may cost up to a $100,000 or more to defend. This is exclusive of expert fees. It is also exclusive of the cost of bail or a bail bond to get you out of jail pending trial. If you go to trial in a civil case and lose, you also will face a judgment for monetary damages against you.

Wait, you say, I will get a public defender for criminal charges! I don’t need to worry. Different courts have different ways to determine who is “unable to pay” for a lawyer. Just because you may think you do not have the resources for a lawyer does not mean the court agrees with you. Assuming you qualify for a public defender, as much as I admire public defenders, they have an enormous caseload and may not have the background knowledge and experience to adequately defend a self-defense shooting case, which is a niche all its own.

Criminal Prosecution

Depending on the jurisdiction and facts in the case, in the event of a self-defense shooting, you could face a charge of assault or murder, or any of the charges in between them. You could appear before a grand jury in which they determine whether there is sufficient evidence to indict you. If you are indicted, you will face criminal charges resulting either in a plea bargain or trial. All of the legal protection programs provide some sort of protection in the event of criminal prosecution, although the extent of coverage varies widely. The plans either provide a lawyer to represent you in the criminal proceeding or provide resources for you to hire an attorney.

Civil Liability

If you wound or kill someone in self-defense, the victim or his family may decide to file suit. Do you think this is unlikely? A San Francisco man recently was sued after he shot a home intruder. A 90-year old Greenbrae, California man was sued after he was shot and returned fire against a burglar in his own home. A Montana man was sued by representatives of a man shot and killed after breaking into his home. These were just a few of the instances I located after a simple Internet search.

Many people may wonder how they may be sued if they have no money to pay a judgment, and the old saying of “you can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip” comes to mind. This is a valid point. Why would someone sue you if you “judgment proof”? First, the assets you legally have available to pay for a civil liability judgment vary from state to state. While certain items under the law may not be garnished to pay a judgment, liens may be placed on property to collect on a judgment. Second, just because you are judgment proof today does not mean you are judgment proof tomorrow. Do you want to risk putting your future at risk? If a judgment is entered, interest will continue to accrue on the judgment as long as it is not paid. Third, if you are someone who is an owner in a business or has investments and savings, then a judgment issued against you potentially could be devastating to everything for which you have spent your life working. Fourth, having liability protection is not likely to make you a target. Unless you tell the whole world you have coverage for civil liability in the event of a self-defense shooting, no one would know you have it until a lawsuit already has been filed.


Another consideration when trying to decide whether to purchase concealed carry coverage is your likelihood of need. I am a Texan, and at this time the mindset of the general population in Texas is supportive of self-defense. Because of this, I believe my risk of being prosecuted or sued as a result of a self-defense shooting in Texas is lower than the risk of someone in California or New York being prosecuted or sued for the same event. The risk still exists; it is just not as high.

The other reality is these events do not happen very often. While a gun is used in self-defense more than three-quarters of a million times each year, not all of these incidents involve an injury or death in which criminal prosecution or a civil lawsuit is more likely to occur. Of the 80 million Americans owning guns and approximately 9 to 10 million concealed carry holders, this is a very small percentage. However, while the risk of occurrence is small, this does not diminish the potentially catastrophic downsides in the unlikely event it occurs. Having your house burn down in a fire is a relatively low risk, yet fires still happen, and people purchase insurance for it because of the potentially cataclysmic outcome.


In comparing the details of the various providers, I created a list of items to consider when purchasing self-defense legal coverage. I also created tables of comparisons with the base level of coverage for each provider and the highest level of protection from each provider. The amounts in green show the best level of protection under each category. Each individual will have items they believe are more important than others. I encourage you to consider the entirety of the plans, including what is covered, what is not, and what exclusions may exist. Compare the plans and look at what they offer in these same areas. While something may not seem important now, if you are faced with defending yourself against criminal charges or a lawsuit, that is not the time to find out you do not have sufficient coverage or no coverage. In my personal opinion, if you are going to shell out the money for legal services protection, make sure you know what you get for your money.

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Other than an attorney retainer, bail may be the first major expense you face in a self-defense shooting. While the term bail and bond are treated synonymously, they are not the same. Bail is cash or property pledged to satisfy an amount of money set by the court to release you with the understanding that if you do not show up when told to do so, you will forfeit the bail. In cases where you cannot afford bail, a surety bond can be used to satisfy bail. In this instance a third party agrees to be responsible for the debt of your bail in exchange for a percentage of the total bail, usually 10 percent. In addition to the 10 percent, the defendant will usually have to agree to some other form of collateral, such as a house or car. If you do not have the funds to post cash for bail or for a bond, you will be held in jail up until the time of trial.

According to a recent study, a majority of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. This amount, if available, only would provide a surety bond for $10,000 bail. According to the Justice Policy Institute, the average bail amount in 2006 was $90,000, up from $40,000 in 1992. Keep in mind this is the average for all criminal cases. Bail in attempted murder or murder cases usually are higher. The bottom line is bail is expensive, and it is rising; accordingly, whether or not the legal services coverage provides bail in the event you do not have stacks of cash sitting around would be something important to consider in procuring concealed carry coverage. If you decide to purchase a plan, I would spring for the extra few dollars to make sure you have adequate coverage for a bail bond.

In their base level plan, U.S. Law Shield does not provide any assistance for bail. The other three provide varying amounts of assistance. The lower-tier plan for CCW Safe provides coverage for up to 10% bond for $250,000 bail or $25,000. The base level plan for Second Call Defense provides $1000 cash for a bond, which will be sufficient for $10,000 bail in most circumstances. USCCA’s base plan provides up to $2500 for a bond, which will be sufficient for $25,000 bail. You likely will need to arrange any additional collateral and fees required to pay the bond.

All of the plans provide some bail coverage in their upper tier plans. CCW Safe provides 10% of up to $1 million bail ($100,000 bond). Second Call Defense providers $25,000 case for a bond ($250,000 bail). U.S. Law Shield provides up to 10% for a bond for $25,000 bail. USCCA provides $10,000 for a bond ($100,000 bail).

Choosing an Attorney

Two of the plans, CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield, have network or contracted attorneys to represent you. You do not choose them; they are chosen for you. The other two plans, Second Call Defense and USCCA, permit you to choose your own attorney. Does this matter? As an attorney, to me, it does. Why? As in every profession, there are people with more experience, training and skills, and if my life is on the line in a trial, I want the best and someone I trust to take care of my interests.

Why does it matter to you? Will your lawyer have experience in your jurisdiction? In other words, do they know the local rules and lay of the land in the courtroom where you will be? Does the lawyer have adequate training and experience in this area or access to resources and assistance from other lawyers to ensure they provide you the best representation possible? Is your attorney strong, capable, and able to provide you an aggressive defense? Even lawyers with loads of experience may not be “effective” and able to do a good job countering an aggressive lawyer on the other side. Representing someone for a misdemeanor is much different than representing someone in a murder trial, just as handling a small personal injury matter with limited damages is much different than handling a wrongful death case with complex liability and damages issues.

Another potential concern with having an attorney appointed for you is what happens in the event you have a conflict with your attorney, you do not get along with your attorney, or you do not believe you attorney is acting in your best interest? If you choose your own attorney, you get another lawyer. If an attorney is appointed for you, it may be more difficult to obtain another attorney. This is something you will want to ask these two providers: what happens if I do not like or want the attorney you give me? Be sure you can live with their answer.

A representative from CCW Safe believes you do not need to choose your own attorney because most people do not know what they need or how to select someone appropriate to represent them. In certain respects, this could be a valid point. However, I think this discounts the value of having some control in selecting who represents you when your life is on the line.

On the other hand, if you have some say in who is retained on your behalf, does this mean you will not get help until you find an attorney. No, it does not. A representative from USCCA confirmed they also have a network of attorneys and will appoint someone with the requisite experience to handle your case, if you need it. Second Call also will assist in finding a qualified attorney.

Second Call Defense and USCCA are insurance-based. They provide a certain amount of coverage for attorneys’ fees you may incur. Does this mean you have to come up with the money to pay for it, and they reimburse you, meaning you struggle to get the initial lawyers’ fees paid? Not necessarily. One of the parts of my law practice is representing insureds, or what is called insurance defense work. Once the lawyer is retained, the insurance company typically pays the lawyer’s bill up to the amount of coverage. Just because a plan may provide “reimbursement” does not mean you are going to be left with a big bill to pay and then have to submit for reimbursement. Characterizing it otherwise is not an accurate representation of how the process works. A representative from USCCA confirmed it is not a reimbursement policy; it provides first dollar coverage.

However, while I have not included the NRA program in this article because only minimal information was available on their plans, I do want to point out their website provides as follows under “What’s Covered”: “Reimbursement for criminal defense costs when you are acquitted of charges.” This implies you will have to come up with the money to defend yourself upfront and secure an acquittal before you get any help from this program. Be sure to look or inquire with any plan as to how the company handles the benefits.

But, if an insurance company is going to be paying for the defense, are they just looking out for themselves as a representative from CCW Safe suggested? Not usually. In Texas as an example, even though an insurance company may pay for attorneys’ fees, the attorney retained for the insured owes his/her duty to the insured to protect his/her interests. What does this mean? In Texas, your lawyer is YOUR lawyer. They must act in YOUR best interest, even if that conflicts with the interests or the opinions of the insurance company.

I readily will admit to bias on this issue given I am an attorney, and I know the importance of effective representation. I certainly am not suggesting the attorneys with CCW Safe or U.S. Law Shield are not capable or competent. I simply would prefer to make a choice to have them or not. For individuals who do not know much about lawyers and do not want the stress of trying to decide who to hire, appointed representation may be satisfactory for you, but it is something you should consider before paying for coverage. However, suggesting you cannot get effective representation or will be saddled with expensive fees until you are reimbursed with any insurance-backed product is a misrepresentation of the benefits offered by Second Call Defense and USCCA I feel compelled to correct.

Limitations on Defense Costs

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield provide unlimited attorneys’ fees for defense of criminal prosecution (see below for a discussion of additional fees and expenses that may or may not be covered). Second Call Defense provides coverage for criminal defense up to $10,000. In my opinion, that provides very little protection for criminal prosecution. It might get you through a plea bargain. It unlikely will cover you through a trial or protracted negotiation of a plea bargain. USCCA provides up to $50,000 in coverage. This is much better and potentially could cover expenses through trial in a low level, non-politicized shooting.

Civil Defense and Civil Damages

As mentioned, even if you do not face criminal charges or prevail on a criminal charge, this does not mean you cannot be sued for damages, contrary to what a representative may say to convince you that you do not need civil liability coverage. In Texas, California, and many other states, you may face both. Most people understand the standard in a criminal trial to be beyond a reasonable doubt. In most civil lawsuits, the standard is preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not. Thus, it is possible for the evidence to not rise to beyond a reasonable doubt but constitute preponderance of the evidence. One important piece of advice I will give is to check the law in your state to see whether it is possible for you to be sued in civil court even if you are cleared of criminal charges. You do not want a misrepresentation of the law as to what you need to cause you to be without liability coverage if you need it.

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield both provide unlimited attorneys’ fees (through the appointed attorney) for representation in a civil lawsuit, but they do not provide any coverage for a judgment or settlement. The base plan for USCCA provides up to $250,000 for civil defense expenses and liability (meaning the total payout for both expenses and liability is $250,000). The base plan for Second Call Defense provides no civil defense or civil liability coverage. It does offer liability coverage under the more expensive plans.


The cost of litigation and trial includes much more than attorneys’ fees. It includes everything from mundane costs such as postage and copying to other significant expenses, such as witness fees and expert fees. I have never heard of any lawyer who does not pass these fees on to the client. Since you will have to pay for all out-of-pocket expenses, it is important to consider whether there are any expenses excluded from a plan’s scope of benefits.

An expert is someone who offers specialized testimony to help the judge or jury understand the issues in this case. Are they important? Absolutely. Are they required? Sometimes. Someone without appropriate training and education will not be able to testify as to a specialized issue beyond the knowledge of a person without such training and experience. Let me pose an example. Assume one of the critical issues in your case is whether or not the suspect you shot denies he attacked you and was walking away from you when you fired. The trajectory of the bullet, the location of the wound, and the movements of both individuals are all going to come into play to assess how the events unfolded. Do you need an expert to support your side of the story? In a situation like that, I would argue you absolutely do so that expert(s) with training, education and expertise in forensics and bullet trajectory can explain to the jury why your version of the events matches up with the evidence.

Experts are expensive. They charge by the hour, and their fees can approach or exceed the lawyer’s hourly fee, depending on the expert’s training, education, and experience. These fees easily can add $10,000 or more to the cost of defense. If you have made the commitment to have a self-defense legal protection plan, it makes no sense not to have coverage for all the fees and expenses you may be charged. All of the plans cover expert fees (at least up to the limits of coverage) except U.S. Law Shield, which only provides it if you pay an additional $2.95 per month or $35.40 per year.

It also should be noted U.S. Law Shield does not pay for witness fees, investigator fees, witness travel fees, or lodging.


Assume you go to trial, you are convinced of your innocence and that your actions were appropriate. However, the jury does not agree, and you are convicted. You want to appeal because you feel the judge made some rulings not in line with the law or you feel the jury’s verdict was tainted by other factors besides the evidence. U.S. Law Shield and Second Call Defense provide no coverage for an appeal under any circumstances. CCW Safe provides coverage for appeals, as does USCCA up to the limits of their coverage.

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What is Covered with “Use of a Weapon” or “Self-Defense”?

The individual plans each have a little different wording on what is covered. CCW Safe purports to cover “all uses of deadly force, not just firearms.” Presumably then if you are in a situation where you defend yourself with a knife or physical force, you would be covered. However, in order to qualify for a plan with CCW Safe, you must have a concealed carry weapon permit. Also, the CCW Safe plan only extends to places where you can legally possess a firearm. So, if you are in a location where it is not legal to carry a firearm and you defend yourself physically, it appears you would not be covered. U.S. Law Shield and USCCA also provide coverage for any lawful weapon used in an act of self-defense. Second Call Defense only covers self-defense using a firearm.

It should be noted these programs do not cover you for negligent carry (carrying your weapon into a prohibited place). None of these programs, except Second Call Defense, covers an accidental shooting.

Family Violence/Dating Exclusion

CCW Safe and U.S. Law Shield both have exclusions when the incident arising from the use of a weapon by a member against the member’s current or former family member, household or dating relationship. Admittedly, this exclusion really bothered me. On one hand, I understand the programs are trying to prevent being obligated to provide representation to someone like Jodi Arias who claimed she killed her husband in self-defense. On the other hand, the inclusion of the term “dating relationship” and “former family member” seem to be so broad as to include situations which may be the very catalyst for a woman learning to shoot or obtaining a concealed carry permit. As a woman, the two things about which I am most concerned are a man overpowering me or someone coming into my home to do me harm. If the man overpowering me happens to be a man with whom I was on a first, second or third date, am I not afforded coverage? If you divorce a man who stalks and threatens you, are you not covered because he is a former family member? When a woman has taken proactive steps to protect herself yet ends up without any kind of legal protection in these types of scenarios, this seems restrictive and disconcerting. And, no, I do not think that is playing the victim card as someone tried to suggest. I also think it is wrong to suggest that if you feel as if you have to bring a gun on a date, then you are dating the wrong person, as this same person suggested. I found such comments, frankly, to be offensive and completely unsympathetic to some of the unique concerns women have. So, I am not in favor of this exclusion, and I encourage women to consider them in evaluating the plans.

USCCA does not have a family violence exclusion listed on their website, and a representative confirmed they have no such exclusion. Second Call Defense does not have such an exclusion on their website, but a call to confirm this and other issues was not returned.

Other Exclusions

CCW Safe, U.S. Law Shield and USCCA all have exclusions for use of drugs and alcohol. I understand this exclusion, but to be the devil’s advocate, I will pose a scenario. You are at home in your house, not driving or in public, and you consume a few beers or a couple of glasses of wine. Someone illegally breaks into your house and threatens you with bodily harm. Will you be covered? It seems not. I wonder how each plan would address this scenario in which there is no “carrying” while under the influence but merely acting in defense of your own home. USCCA’s representative advised the whether an insured is “under the influence” of alcohol is determined on a case-by-case basis pursuant to the law where you are located.

I encourage everyone to read the fine print before you decide to purchase, to do some research on what you need and what you do not, what is covered and what is not, and to purchase when you are ready. This may not be popular with any of the providers, but if you feel hesitant, take some time to ask questions and get the information you need before being pressured into purchasing anything.


In culling through the website material and news reports, I noted some information you may or may not want to consider in deciding whether to make a purchase and with whom.

As I mentioned, Second Call Defense and USCCA are insurance-based. USCCA’s plan, however, in the event you want to promote American business, is backed by American insurers.


I conducted an Internet search to see if there were any notable complaints about any of the plans. Texas Law Shield has been sued in a class action alleging it violated Texas barratry (improper solicitation of legal representation) laws by soliciting CHL students to purchase the plan after a legal presentation during their class and by giving kickbacks to course instructors when students signed up for the service. Texas Law Shield has denied any wrongdoing.


CCW Safe, U.S. Law Shield, and USCCA provide a discount for active-duty military and law enforcement officers. Kudos to all of them for acknowledging that service.

Other Items Offered

CCW Safe and USCCA both offer post-incident counseling/psychological support. I have no doubt even if completely in the right, having to defend yourself by shooting another person will be very emotional, causing some post-traumatic stress. I believe this benefit is worthwhile. USCCA and Second Call Defense offer wage replacement while you are in Court, another worthwhile benefit. Second Call Defense offers clean-up costs. I like this idea. You will not be in a state of mind to handle this, and a shooting in your home will require specialized cleaning.

In conclusion, let me address some things I noted based upon the various websites and online forums. Before you believe something posted about a program in a forum, please go verify it yourself. I saw several misrepresentations about what some programs do and do not offer. I also saw this in some of the plan websites when they compared their services to another company’s. Ask questions. Look at the terms of the plans.

All of these companies want your business, and this leads me to my next point. Are these companies making a profit off this? Every single one of them. And, there always will be people who say you do not need this coverage and argue these companies are getting wealthy off your fear. Yet, there are those who feel comforted by having some protection in the event sh!t hits the fan. I’m not here to tell you whether you need it or not. My only goal was to set out the differences in the plans and some things to help you decide if you want the protection, and if so, what to consider when deciding what to purchase.

With all of that said if you decide to purchase a plan, of the four I evaluated, the most comprehensive coverage for the money comes with USCCA. You obtain criminal coverage, cash for bail bond, civil defense coverage, and liability coverage, and all without a family violence exclusion. They also have different levels of plans so you can decide the amount of protection you need based upon your situation—the assets you have and want protected. The upper tier plans of Second Call Defense provide comparable benefits but are more expensive for what you receive. If you are not worried about paying any civil damages and do not have a concern with the family violence exclusion, CCW Safe offers the next best plan.


Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Today is one my favorite days of the year, yet I often am surprised how the significance and import of today in history is missed by so many. Today is not simply the birthday of America. It is the celebration of independence over tyranny. It is the celebration of liberty. It is embracing the right to freedom from an unjust government.

If you have not read it in a while, you can read the Declaration of Independence here. The language is superb. The detailing of the rights of humans is exceptional. Unfortunately, most people only know the first few words…

When in the Course of human events

Or, they only know words repeated so often…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I certainly do not mean to diminish these words, but the rest of the language, however, is the foundation of how the United States of America came to be:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Government only operates at the consent of the people.  Whenever any government seeks to take away our life, liberty or pursuit of happiness, we, as mankind, have the right to abolish that government.

Imagine, if you will, the British under the guise of safety for the American colonists, had by force disarmed the colonists to protect them from themselves, to protect them from invaders, to protect them from those wanting to do them harm. . . to subjugate them to their will. Would the United States of America even exist today? The revolution may never have begun. The revolution may have resulted in a slaughter of untold numbers for this to be just another day in history. Imagine, if you will, the British had outlawed muskets, pistols, rifles, long rifles, and cannons. In a bit of history not often repeated, that is indeed what the British attempted to do. The British banned the import of firearms and gunpowder to the colonists. The British seized hundreds of barrels of black powder from the Charlestown powder house. On October 17, 1774, Lord Dartmouth, the Royal Secretary of State for America, sent General Gage a letter urging him to disarm New England. Benjamin Franklin began arranging the import of firearms and ammunition from the Netherlands, France, and Spain. Under British law at the time, our Patriots, our founders, were, in fact, criminals.

The response of the colonists was not to accept the indignity and immorality of tyranny. Their response was to say no to despotism and say no to abuse.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

It is the duty of the people, of our people, to reject abuse by government. The Declaration of Independence cited a long list of abuses by the King, not the least of which:

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

. . .

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

When discussing freedoms and liberty, the history of this great nation and how it came to be is so important, particularly when it relates to the meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment. The government of our founders meant to disarm them. The colonists would have none of it. Those patriots violated unjust laws to secure the liberty and freedom they believed to be inherent to the very existence and breath of man.


So, I say to you, Happy Independence Day, freedom from tyranny, and the fight for Liberty.

If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.  ~ Thomas Jefferson