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The Armed Citizen Project Hopes to Fight Crime by Giving Out Free Guns

Houston is the first target.
Rear peep sight on a black shotgun. (PHOTO: GUY J. SAGI/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Rear peep sight on a black shotgun. (PHOTO: GUY J. SAGI/SHUTTERSTOCK)

Handing out guns to make everyone safer? Nope, we’re not talking about Syria. This is Texas, folks.

From the Associated Press last week, a story that somehow escaped our sights: the Armed Citizen Project, a non-profit project founded by 29-year-old Kyle Coplen, is giving free shotguns to people, especially single women, living in high-crime neighborhoods. Along with the guns come free gun-safety training classes. The organization says it costs them about $300 per person, for the gun and the training, and all of that money comes from private donations.

As of last week’s report, the group had only begun the program in one neighborhood, Oak Forest, in northwest Houston. Coplen says “his group expects to train at least 50 Oak Forest residents and put up signs saying the neighborhood is armed.”

It’s a small start, but the Armed Citizen Project is aiming high, so to speak. Soon it will expand to many cities that have traditionally tried to buy guns back from people in high-crime areas, rather than giving them away for free. According to the AP:

The organization, which plans to offer training classes in Dallas, San Antonio, and Tucson, Ariz., in the next few weeks, is working to expand its giveaways to 15 cities by the end of the year, including Chicago and New York.

Coplen wrote on Twitter last month that he hopes to “Create 1000 new gun owners this year.” Earlier, he posted a photo of 10 women holding the pump-action shotguns they were learning how to use, with the caption: “My nonprofit trained & armed 10 women 4 free.  Somewhere n Houston a rapist will think twice.”

On their website’s FAQ page, the ACP explains why their program chooses pump-action shotguns over other types of guns: they’re relatively cheap, easy to use, and “effective against" (read: scary to) would-be intruders. This choice will also, they believe, protect them from certain lines of argument from the “anti-gun lobby”:

If an ‘assault weapon’ is too extreme to be used for home defense, then there must necessarily be a weapon that is acceptable for home defense, or else the gun-control proponent is being blatantly intellectually dishonest. This style of firearm is likely to be the most palatable to any gun-control proponent that claims to believe in the right of self-defense, and we challenge them to reveal who they really are.

In their take on this counterintuitive experiment, Austin’s CultureMap notes that Oak Forest has recently suffered a string of armed robberies, in which the perpetrator follows residents home and confronts them in their driveways.

A Leader News report on those robberies quotes the Houston Police Department’s Sgt. Frank Escobido’s instructions to residents who think they see anything, or anyone, suspicious: call 911, he said. “Do not take any other action.”