As gun enthusiasts, people who sell guns, and the President of the United States all travel to Atlanta for this year’s annual National Rifle Association convention, the organization that quite literally rewrote the Second Amendment, is promoting a new initiative: NRA Carry Guard, a three-tiered service package that provides training, legal advice, insurance for criminal defense costs, and “immediate access” to payments for incidentals such as bail, compensation while in court, “psychological support,” and, gruesomely, “clean-up costs.”
It also offers a 24–7 hotline for “emergency assistance.” The wallet-sized card shown on Carry Guard’s website lists three easy steps for a person who is “forced to act in lawful self-defense:” 1) Call 911. 2) Wait for the police. 3) Call NRA Carry Guard.
For decades, the gun lobby has facilitated concealed carry and “stand your ground” legislation in large part by focusing on the racialized threat of lurking criminals or rapists. Today, as the number of states with stand your ground laws grows and the president himself is set to deliver a keynote address, that anxiety is being funneled into the fear of going to court—or being jailed—for killing someone when you shoot them. (Over the last five years, however, studies have shown that the best indicators of whether your self-defense argument will keep you out of prison are generally your gender and the color of your skin.)
In an op-ed in one of the NRA’s publications on Thursday, right-wing TV host and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch describes watching her children play in her yard in graffiti-riddled, “decaying” St. Louis, arms crossed with a 9 mm on her hip.
In subsequent paragraphs, she explains how gun owners are marginalized in America, citing the most “lawsuit-happy culture in the history of the world” and “the extra threat of widespread bias and misunderstanding” facing gun owners today.
Insurance packages such as this one aren’t new—in fact, as The Trace reports, it’s likely the NRA ripped the idea off from anther Second Amendment organization, the United States Conceal Carry Association. A few months ago, according to the president of the USCCA, reps from the NRA met to discuss collaborating on an insurance plan. Less than two weeks before the convention, the USCCA was disinvited from Atlanta by the NRA, an unsurprising show of force from such a politically ruthless organization.
Despite the massive PR push, it remains unclear how popular Carry Guard will be, or how often that all-important emergency hotline will ring. But based on an incident last year in Florida, the original stand-your-ground state, we do know how it could be successfully used. Last year, a man paying less than $30 a month for the USCAA’s services fatally shot his unarmed neighbor, Carlos Garcia, in a dispute over the volume of Garcia’s music.
According to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times, Nick Julian IV called 911 after killing Garcia and repeated several times: “He attacked me and I had to use force.” and “I was afraid for my life”—a slight alteration from what was written on the back of the USCAA’s extremely helpful instructional card: “I was attacked, and was forced to defend myself. Please send the police and an ambulance.” He then hung up and called the number listed on the back of the card, well before the ambulance arrived and Garcia was proclaimed dead.
Julian’s father, the only witness, also spoke to the USCAA’s lawyer: Both men claimed Garcia had charged in Julian’s direction, forcing him to shoot. All charges against Julian were dropped.
In The Trace story, a smaller insurance provider—which covers all, rather than part, of its subscribers’ legal fees, and thus vets cases more aggressively— describes reading the police reports of his customers’ incidents: “We once had a guy who basically snuck up and shot his spouse at a traffic light. So we did not provide coverage there. But that’s a rare occurrence.” One would hope.