Tucson, Ariz. • A campaign promising free shotguns for people to protect themselves in Tucson's most troubled neighborhoods has divided some residents in a community still reeling from a shooting rampage in 2011that killed six people, left a congresswoman and several others wounded, and made the city a symbol of gun violence in America.
The Armed Citizen Project is part of a national campaign to give shotguns to single women and homeowners in the nation's crime-ridden neighborhoods, an effort that comes amid a national debate on gun control after mass shootings in Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut.
While towns in Idaho, Utah, Virginia and Pennsylvania have debated ordinances recommending gun ownership, the gun giveaway effort appears to be the first of its kind.
"If you are not willing to protect the citizens of Tucson, someone is going to do it, why not me? Why not have armed citizens protecting themselves," said Shaun McClusky, a real estate agent who plans to start handing out shotguns by May.
Participants will receive training on how to properly use, handle and store their weapon, as well as trigger locks. It costs about $400 per participant for the weapon and training.
Tucson police officials declined to discuss the gun program or public safety concerns.
Pueblo Gardens, one of the neighborhoods targeted by the program, could benefit from a public safety campaign, but some residents say they are appalled anyone would think the answer is more guns.
"We could take that $400 per shotgun and give it to these people so they could go buy groceries, pay rent, pay their utility bills, something useful," said neighborhood association president Cindy Fayala. "Vigilantism is not the answer."