A Houston nonprofit is giving away free shotguns to single residents who live in neighborhoods with high crime rates.
The neighborhood of Oak Forest was one of the first in the country to receive free guns and training from the Armed Citizen Project. The 29-year-old founder of the nonprofit, Kyle Coplen, said they expect to train 50 residents in Oak Forest, where residents will put up signs warning that the neighborhood is armed.
"When we have a crime wave, we 'don't just say let's just increase police and that's all we do," Coplen told The Associated Press.We do multiple things. I see this as one aspect of what we can do."
The Armed Citizen Project believes gun giveaways to responsible owners are more effective at deterring crime than gun buy-backs. But a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, David Hemenway, said research has refuted any claim that gun ownership deters crime.
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"Mostly what guns seem to do is make situations more lethal because most crime has nothing to do with guns," Hemenway said. "When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt."
The cost to arm and train one person is about $300, the group said, and about $20,000 to equip and train a whole neighborhood. Coplen did not disclose how much money the organization has put aside for projects of this kind. They plan to hold gun giveaways in 15 cities before the end of the year.
During the next few weeks, the program will hold training seminars in San Antonio, Dallas and Tuscon, Ariz.
One of the group’s firearms instructors, Dan Blackford, who worked in Oak Forest, said the group is teaching residents when to use deadly force.
"The sad part is most people think if you're pro-gun, that you've got this gunslinger attitude, that you are walking around looking for a gun fight to get into and that is so far from the truth," Blackford said.
Houston City Councilwomen Ellen Cohen, who represents Oak Forest, said she believes gun ownership should include proper training and background checks.
“I have serious concerns about more guns in homes,” she said.