The Armed Citizen Project kicked off its initiative to arm residents of high crime areas this week in a small community in Houston.
Starting in the Texas city, a city with the 10th highest crime rate for a city its size and where the group is headquartered, is a small part of a nation-wide project aimed at empowering citizens with an effective means of self-defense, handing out free shotguns and training for safety and usage.
The Houston project launched with the community of Oak Forest, a neighborhood comprised of a mixture of older homes and newer townhouses. The neighborhood has seen an unsettling increase in both driveway robberies and home burglaries, according to Fox News. However, the Armed Citizens Project hopes to drive those crime rates down with its program, and some residents are jumping at the opportunity.
The 29-year-old with a master’s in public administration and founder of the non-profit organization, Kyle Coplen said he expects to have at least 50 residents from the community participate in the project. Once the residents have been trained and given their shotguns, signs will be placed in the community warning criminals that the neighborhood is armed.
Coplen explains the project is part of a multi-faceted solution to a growing crime problem. “When we have a crime wave, we don’t just say let’s just increase police and that’s all we do. We do multiple things. I see this as one aspect of what we can do,” he said.
But not everybody agrees that arming citizens with the means of protecting themselves is an effective way to deter crime.
David Hemenway, a professor of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health, claims that more guns equates to more violence. “Mostly what guns seem to do is make situations more lethal because most crime has nothing to do with guns. When there is a gun in the mix, there is much more likely to be somebody dying or somebody incredibly hurt.”
Sandra Keller, a resident who is participating in the program, disagrees. “If you don’t have a gun, you’re just a walking victim. You’re just waiting for somebody to take advantage of you and your property,” she said, and spoke of the helplessness she felt after being robbed in her own store a few years ago.