If you’re a law-abiding gun owner, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli would like to be your lawyer - for less than $10 a month.
Cuccinelli and three partners have launched Virginia Self Defense Law, a firm focused on defending Second Amendment rights. With bargain-basement pricing and a cheeky slogan - “Defending those who defend themselves” - the venture seeks to tap into a feeling among some gun owners that the right to bear arms is under attack.
“A legal retainer with Virginia Self Defense Law costs as little as $8.33 a month - less than half the cost of a hunting license,” the firm’s website says. “Don’t be a victim! Don’t let these realities become your family’s fiscal nightmare!”
For that price, the firm promises to defend clients facing firearms charges stemming from an act of self defense and those who have been “harassed by law enforcement for lawfully carrying their weapon.”
The firm’s website links to news stories about cases in which gun owners were charged with crimes, under headlines such as “Man arrested in front of his son for ‘rudely displaying weapon’ “ and “Burglar’s family awarded $300,000 in wrongful death suit.” One of the stories featured is about the legal bills racked up by George Zimmerman, the Florida man acquitted in July in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager.
“All of us . . . can name cases we know of in various places where really outrageous things went on just to torment lawful, law-abiding gun owners,” Cuccinelli said in an interview. “We’re filling a market need.”
State Sen. Thomas Garrett Jr., R-Louisa, one of Cuccinelli’s partners in the venture, came up with the idea of offering their services by way of an inexpensive retainer. It’s a pricing strategy that has been tried in Texas, and a few outfits provide something like that on a national basis. But Cuccinelli said the national groups will find their client a lawyer - probably a low-priced one - when the need arises.
In the case of his new firm, Cuccinelli said, the clients already know whom they’re getting: A former attorney general who was also the Republican nominee for governor last year; Garrett, who is a former Louisa County prosecutor; and two lawyers in partnership with them, Graven Craig and Torrey Williams.
“It’s not insurance. It’s a retainer plan. But it gives you peace of mind knowing ultimately if something happens, you’ve got that coverage,” Garrett said.
Gun owners who pay the monthly fee can count on the firm’s lawyers to represent them for free in court in self-defense and right-to-carry cases. If they pick up a weapons charge while dealing drugs or engaging in some other sort of illegal activity, all bets are off. The firm has an out through what Cuccinelli calls the “sex, drugs, rock-n-roll clause.”
Most national plans cap legal fees, Garrett said. The firm has no limit, though clients would have to post their own bond if necessary and foot the bill for any expert witness fees.
“If it takes you a year (to fight a charge), we’re there,” Garrett said. “Worst-case scenario, I don’t make a lot of money one year.”
The firm has been advertising at Washington area gun shows and has attracted about 30 clients since launching this month. Cuccinelli has not attended the shows because the crowd would probably want to talk politics, he said. But the other members of the firm bring along “cardboard Ken,” a cutout, to draw attention.
Cuccinelli, a father of seven, is not relying entirely on Virginia Self Defense Law to support his family. Since leaving office in January, he has been building a separate law practice, Cuccinelli and Associates, that will focus on constitutional law, complex civil litigation and health-care fraud.
But the former attorney general thinks that even with the bargain retainers, the self-defense firm could pay off because gun owners generally stay out of trouble.
“The people who took out concealed-handgun permits in Virginia were universally far more law abiding statistically than the average population,” he said.