Arizona Program Offers Free Shotguns For Protection

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A new privately backed initiative in Tucson, Ariz., is taking the fight over residents’ powers of self-defense straight to the people, establishing a program whereby law-abiding citizens can get a free shotgun to help protect themselves and deter would-be assailants and thieves.

The work of a small coalition of residents fed up with the city’s underfunded police service, the program aims to reimburse residents in mid-to-high-crime areas of town who purchase a specific style of shotgun — once they’ve received firearms training (which the fund would also pay for).

The Tucson effort is part of a larger grass-roots crime prevention experiment that began in Houston, called the Armed Citizen Project (ACP). The ACP is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to facilitating the arming of law-abiding citizens, and analyzing the relationship between increased firearm availability and rates.”

The program has a larger goal as well: a statistics-based study of whether, and how, crime rates will change in the high-crime areas, one city block at a time, where residents have been armed with the ACP shotguns. ACP Executive Director Kyle Coplen, who conceived the project while a grad student at the University of Houston, explains the program’s logic this way:

Gun-control advocates often argue that an increase in guns in an area will lead to an increase in crime, while gun-rights advocates often believe that fewer guns result in more crime. While both sides often argue that their opponents’ policies will result in more crime, gun-control proponents have largely been the victors when it comes to policy implementation…It is our belief that gun-rights activists must take the offensive, and actively encourage the increased presence of defensive weapons in society. Both sides believe that their policies will result in less crime, and it is about time that our side begins to act with the conviction and courage that it will take to win the debate.

The single-break-action shotguns supplied to participants were chosen for their cost, facility of use, comparatively safe design and lack of appeal to criminals. But just because the group is using Vice President Joe Biden’s self-defense weapon of choice doesn’t mean they’ve spurned assault weapons. In fact, it’s to prove a point the gun grabbers often fall back on:

Another big reason for using this style of defensive weapon is to challenge the anti-gun lobby on a claim they often make. We are now quite used to hearing arguments along the lines of “why do you need an ‘assault weapon’ for home defense?” These gun-control proponents often insist that they do believe in the right to bear arms to some extent, and we are challenging them to prove it. 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 [the shotgun] 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.

Back in Arizona, organizer Shaun McClusky, whom locals recognize as a former mayoral candidate, told the Arizona Daily Star he’s aware he’ll receive a fair amount of public scrutiny — both positive and negative — for launching the effort in a city that, for different reasons, has long attracted both liberal pro-regulation nuts as well as strong advocates of individual liberty. He’s unconcerned about any bad PR.

“Saying guns are responsible for killing people is like saying spoons are responsible for making people fat. If someone wants to bring me the publicity for free and sue me, bring it on,” he said.

“We need to take back our city, and it needs to come back to the citizens and not the criminals. Right now, the criminal element is winning.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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