A Houston non-profit organization called Armed Citizens Project is launching an initiative that they think will save lives: giving free shotguns to single and/or vulnerable women in dangerous neighborhoods.
The group is starting in the Houston neighborhood of Oak Forest that has recently experienced a high number of burglaries. Run entirely on donations, the Armed Citizens Project's plan is to provide shotguns to fifty residents in the area after they pass a background check and take one firearms course. They hope to expand this program to over fifteen cities by the end of the year and also to use the giveaway as field research, proving that more guns leads to less crime.
Let's start with the good here. Clearly, the Armed Citizens Project has their heart in the right place, and in trying to make single women in dangerous neighborhoods feel more safe, they're doing infinitely more to make the gun issue female-friendly than the NRA itself.
Unfortunately, handing out guns is not going to accomplish their mission.
Proponents of the "more guns, less crime" argument use an attractive logic: If you were being robbed, wouldn't you like a gun to defend yourself? Most people would answer yes. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. Aside from the fact that the two studies used to back this argument have major flaws in their methodology and analysis, there are almost five times as many studies that have proven the exact opposite: more guns, more crimes. Just to cite one, this Harvard study found that guns are most often used to "threaten and intimidate," even when the owner thinks they are using it in self-defense.
That's not to mention that guns require quite a bit of training, and even then, they are often misused. ABC's 20/20 did an experiment with college students (some of whom had been gun owners for years), providing them guns loaded with paintball pellets, extensive training, and the knowledge that they would be confronted with a shooter later in the day. Even so well prepared, every single student failed to confront the shooter and was actually shot themselves. It's not surprising when you consider that even police rates of accurately shooting in high-stress situations is about one in four. By that token, giving guns to random citizens with minimal training goes from inadvisable to an outright disaster.
Aside from the rare moment when the gun is being used in self-defense, consider what happens because of the gun the other 99.99% of the time that it's not being used. Aside from the countless anecdotal stories you hear about children or adults accidentally shooting people in their own homes, the Center for Disease Control found that the mere presence of a gun in the house increases the risk of homicide threefold and the risk of suicide fivefold. Where a gun goes, violence follows.
And even if the facts don't sway you, consider the proverb that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. If we consider the path to safety to be paved with handguns, we are essentially advocating an arms race among our own citizens. Whoever has the most guns wins. Do we really want to advocate a policy that essentially calls for shooting yourself out of danger?
Obviously, I'm not denying that there is a problem here. Dangerous neighborhoods are not good news for anyone, least of all single women, some of whom have children that will be home alone at times. But crime is a problem solved with by ensuring opportunities for a city's youth, by increasing police presence, and by tackling poverty. None of these options are quite as sexy as giving someone a handgun, but they're proven, they're effective, and they're better solutions.
In the words of Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting, "If more guns would lead to less crime, then why is America not the safest place in the world, with 300 million guns?"