TUCSON, Ariz. —
Research has produced inconclusive results on whether defensive gun use lowers crime. Some research suggests guns result in more suicides and accidental deaths, while other studies have shown criminals are wary of gun owners.
"People don't want to confront an armed person at home," said Garen J. Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis. "But, separately, there is solid evidence that in communities with higher rates of gun ownership, burglary rates are up, not down, and that's because guns are hot loot."
Wintemute said it's likely the risk of violence in the homes participating in the gun giveaway will go up.
But those behind the program argue shotguns are affordable, easy to use and don't require precise aim when shooting, making them the perfect home protection weapon. The goal is to arm hundreds of people in Tucson, Houston, New York, Chicago, Detroit and at least 10 other cities by the end of the year.
"It is our hypothesis that criminals have no desire to die in your hallway. We want to use that fear," said Kyle Coplen, 29, the project's founder and a University of Houston graduate student.
Tucson became a symbol of American's gun violence in 2011 when a mentally ill man opened fire at a political meet-and-greet hosted by then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a Tucson-area supermarket. Giffords, who is still recovering from her critical wounds, has in recent months become a champion of universal background gun checks and other gun restrictions denounced by Second Amendment proponents.
Moved by Giffords' advocacy, the Tucson City Council recently approved a measure requiring background checks at gun shows held on city property. City officials said the gun giveaway program appears to be legal, so they have no recourse to shut it down.