A new gun advocacy group has a bold idea it says will stem gun violence while enlisting more Americans to oppose gun control. How do they plan to do it? By giving away free shotguns in 15 cities across the nation.
The Armed Citizens Project, founded by University of Houston graduate student Kyle Coplen, plans to distribute free shotguns to citizens across 15 high-crime cities, including Houston and Tuscon, Ariz. CBS reports that four mothers in the Houston area have already received their free shotguns.
Now, Coplen plans to branch out to Chicago, which has been tormented by a wave of gun violence. He announced his plan to bring free shotguns to high-crime Chicago neighborhoods at this weekend's 2013 National Rifle Association convention in Houston. Ultimately, Coplen believes that giving away guns will encourage homeowners to fight back against criminals in their neighborhoods.
"It's our hypothesis that criminals do not want to die in your hallway. We think that society should use that fear to deter crime," Coplen said at the convention. "We're giving folks the tools with which to defend their life, liberty and property, we're training them how to use the weapons and empowering citizens."
The group isn’t simply dropping high-powered shotguns into communities and then walking away. In order to qualify for an Armed Citizens Project free shotgun, applicants have to pass a background check and receive training from the group. Once enough citizens in a neighborhood have been armed (as many as one out of four, according to plans on ACP’s website), Coplen plans to check on the neighborhood’s crime statistics every few months to see if levels of violence rise or fall. The group is accepting donations to fuel the cause.
But will Coplen be able to distribute the free shotguns in areas besides Houston? It’s hard to tell. Chicago has much stricter gun control than most areas in the nation, and Coplen is reportedly checking with his lawyers on the legalities of the plan.
Still, even if his scheme is legal, many are convinced that it will only make things worse for the neighborhoods in question. Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy believes that the Armed Citizen Project’s goals are fundamentally flawed.
"I said it before, I'll say it again. The answer to gun violence isn't more guns," McCarthy said to Chicago’s Fox 32 News. "The answer to gun violence is reasonability in gun laws, restricting illegal guns reaching the streets in the hands of criminals."
McCarthy’s strategy is entirely different. For years, the city of Chicago has instituted a turn-in program that took several thousand illegal guns off the streets last year, according to CBS Chicago. Still, gun violence remains extremely high in Chicago.