UNDATED (USA TODAY) -- A guy in Tucson plans to hand out free shotguns to people living in crime-heavy neighborhoods and I'm having trouble knocking his plan.
This is NOT an April Fool's joke.
Seriously, it's not.
I mean it.
Shaun McClusky, an in-your-face former mayoral candidate from Tucson, has teamed up with a Houston-based organization called The Armed Citizen Project.
The group was started in Houston by a man named Kyle Coplen. Its mission, as described on its website is "training and arming residents in mid-high crime areas with defensive shotguns, for free... and measuring the effect that a heavily armed society has on crime rates."
McClusky told me, "Kyle really thought the program out well. I called him up about 10 days ago and said can we start it here in Tucson? I speak with two of the council members here on a regular basis. I sent them an e-mail saying if you guys continue to fail to fund public safety I am going to do this program whether you like it or not. So this is on the city council for failing the public by not funding public safety."
McClusky said that three neighborhoods already have been selected and he hopes to have the program up and running within a few months. The first step is to hand out leaflets and post fliers asking residents of the neighborhoods to sign up.
Those who volunteer must agree to go through a background check and to take an all day gun-safety course before they can get a weapon.
"I don't want to arm criminals," McClusky said. "I want to arm honest citizens who want to protect their families. That's the bottom line. And they will go through a full day of training. They will go through a weapons-handling class, a weapons-safety class and also a range-training class. It's better than your average person walking into a store and saying I want a gun to protect my family and walking out with a weapon. I want to make sure they understand the rules and regulations as well as all aspects of this gun so they can safely protect their families."
The weapon selected will either be a single-break-action shotgun or a pump-action shotgun, depending on availability, McClusky told me.
"These guns are good for personal protection, but gang bangers don't want this weapon," McClusky said. "It's not their weapon of choice. It uses buckshot. It's enough to stop a bad guy but it will not be like a 9 mm bullet that goes through the first person and keeps on going."
The cost per participant is estimated at about $400, perhaps more depending on the weapon. McClusky said he already has roughly $12,000. The program is funded with donations.
Tucson Councilman Steve Kozachik vehemently opposes the project.
He told The Arizona Daily Star, "To suggest that giving away ... loaded shotguns in high-crime areas will make anybody safer is pure idiocy. This is coming from a purported leader in the local Republican Party, the same group who last year auctioned off a Glock and a rifle as fundraisers. Now they're giving them away in our community? They're totally out of touch with the values of this city."
I sympathize, to a degree. I get the argument that says putting more guns on the streets could compound the problem and there is no guarantee they won't wind up in the hands of bad guys. I get that there could be accidents. Or instances of domestic violence. Or suicides.
I get as well that McClusky is a political provocateur whose motives aren't exactly pure.
But, honestly, isn't the Armed Citizen Project giving gun control advocates exactly what they've been asking for?
Background checks. Required training. And defensive guns that aren't "assault weapons."
"I won't say how many weapons we hand out in a neighborhood," McClusky said. "I may put three shotguns in a neighborhood. I might put 30. Afterwards we will put yard signs in several of the entry streets saying this neighborhood is protected by the Armed Citizen Project. If you're a bad guy are you going to go in there or are you looking for an easier target?"