An Arizona ex-politician has announced plans to distribute free shotguns to Tucson residents living in high-crime areas. Shaun McClusky said he has begun efforts to purchase guns and ammunition, which he’ll give to anyone who can pass a background check.
The former Tucson mayoral candidate’s theory is testing the premise that more guns in an area will lead to lower crime. McClusky said the vigilante program is necessary because the Tuscon City Council has failed to devote enough funding to the police department.
“We need to take back our city, and it needs to come back to the citizens and not the criminals,” McClusky told the Arizona Daily Star regarding his plan. “Right now, the criminal element is winning.”
Guns in Tucson first made national headlines in January 2011, when then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt at a public meeting with constituents. Six people were killed in the assault, and another thirteen wounded.
The Star reported that McClusky has already raised $12,000 from donors and will start posting leaflets within the coming weeks. He said he’ll donate $205 – the cost of a gun and a box of ammunition – to individuals who want to use single-break-action shotguns that hold one shell. The total cost for each person will range between $350 and $400, depending on the price of background checks.
“Saying guns are responsible for killing people is like saying spoons are responsible for making people fat,” McClusky said. “If someone wants to bring me the publicity for free and sue me, bring it on.”
Travis Pratt, who teaches criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University, said the new program would likely only increase gun violence, not curb crime in the area. Pratt was careful to point out that the shotguns McClusky hopes to use would have little appeal to criminals.
“There is no credible evidence at all that providing a high-crime area with the instruments to facilitate more crime is going to have any net social benefits,” Pratt told the Arizona Daily Star. “These kinds of rhetorical devices get thrown around a lot and they’re politically popular here in Arizona.”
“There isn’t the same potential for gun violence as if you were handing out 9 millimeters,” he said.
McClusky’s idea is based on an experiment proposed last month in Houston, Texas. Kyle Coplen, a University of Houston graduate student and founder of the Armed Citizens Project, declared he’d be offering 20-gauge single-shotguns to residents in dangerous parts of the city. The Armed Citizens Project wrote on its website that its mission is “to find if there exists a causal link between an increase in the presence of firearms and the level of crime.”
“Pro-gun activists have largely been content to simply fend off new potential gun control laws,” the site continued. “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.”