TUCSON, Ariz. -- A campaign promising free shotguns for people in Tucson's most troubled neighborhoods has divided some residents in a community still reeling from a shooting rampage in 2011 that killed six people and left a congresswoman wounded.
The nonprofit Armed Citizen Project is part of a national campaign to give shotguns to single women and homeowners in neighborhoods with high crime rates. The effort comes amid a national debate on gun control after mass shootings in Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut.
"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.
Arizona gun proponents have donated about $12,500 to fund the giveaway, and McClusky, a former mayoral and city council candidate, hopes to collect enough to eventually arm entire neighborhoods.
Participants will receive training on how to properly use, handle and store their weapon, as well as trigger locks.
Tucson police officials declined to discuss the gun program, but statistics published by the department show violent crime was at a 13-year low in 2010. Tucson averages about 50 homicides a year.
"Just like any other city in Arizona and in the nation we have our issues, but it is not crime-ridden," said Vice Mayor Regina Romero. "I would never say you have to carry a gun or you have to be afraid for your life."
City officials said the gun giveaway program appears to be legal, so they have no recourse to shut it down.
Those behind the program -- which they hope to take national -- argue shotguns are affordable, easy to use and don't require precise aim when shooting, making them the perfect home protection weapon.
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 an area supermarket.