Special to the NNPA from The Chicago Citizen
Chicago has a very serious crime problem made evident by innocent victims, including children, toddlers and infants, who lose their lives to gun violence seemingly every week. Residents are constantly demanding a decrease in Chicago’s violence, a change that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel must strategically plan every day.
However, Kyle Coplen, founder of Armed Citizen Project (ACP), is vowing to “help” local citizens combat the violence in Chicago. But his plans are non-traditional and controversial…he plans to give away free shotguns.
Coplen, fortified by his non-profit organization, ACP, is planning a tour of several cities across the country where he will supply citizens with free with shotguns so they can feel safe within their own homes. The National Rifle Association (NRA) member from Texas has included Chicago in on his “gun handout” route.
According to the ACP website, the organization is choosing mid-high crime neighborhoods in cities across America, and offering defensive weapons to citizens that can pass a background check, and who will take safety, legal, and tactical training.
“We’re not trying to solve [Chicago’s] gun crimes, we’re empowering citizens in their own homes,” Coplen told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper. “That’s all there is to it. [We’re doing this for] folks who want to feel safe in their own homes, folks who want to be able to defend their life, liberty and property if confronted with a threat, we’re helping those people.”
ACP plans to arrive in Chicago within the next four to eight weeks at which time they will be able to disclose what neighborhoods they will target. In addition, Coplen insists that the ACP was contacted by people around the country who requested their help.
“We’re training an army of folks so it won’t be a one day event; any city that we expand into we are going to be in that city indefinitely,” Coplen stated.
“These folks have come to us; these are people that have stated that they want the help. We’re not forcing anyone to go through our training courses and to acquire a weapon; these people want the tools to protect their life, liberty and property.”
The shotguns Coplen plans to handout are new and have been donated from a variety of private sources. One pump action shotguns will be administered to potential recipients after they complete ACP’s tactical and safety training class. Only residents who have lived in the targeted neighborhoods for at least one year will be allowed to participate in the program. Shotguns were selected as the weapon of choice because of their low cost, small learning curve and effectiveness in deterring potential intruders.
The Chicago Citizen Newspaper asked Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy for his opinion on Coplen’s plans. His response clearly indicated that he is not a fan of more guns coming into Chicago.
“The answer to the problem of illegal guns is not more guns. We need stronger laws to keep illegal guns from getting to our streets in the first place and provide stronger penalties for the criminals who carry illegal guns,” McCarthy said. “We will continue to work together with the community, residents, clergy and local organizations to protect the public and keep illegal firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals.”
Mayor Emanuel’s office was contacted for comment on the planned gun giveaway, but did not return the Chicago Citizen Newspaper’s telephone calls before press time.
Tio Hardiman, executive director of Cease Fire, an anti-violence program and initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention aimed at reducing street violence, said Coplen’s plan is unsolicited and problematic.
“Speaking on behalf of Cease Fire, we’re unsure of his overall goal or purpose,” Hardiman said. “Nobody reached out to him to ask for his help. We’re about changing minds. People need help as opposed to arming themselves.
Hardiman referenced a recent victim of Chicago’s gun violence who was an innocent bystander.
“Even if Hadiya Pendleton and the other (young victims) had guns, it’s not like they would have had a gun on them at the time they were shot,” Hardiman said making his point and calling Coplen’s plan, ludicrous, a sentiment he said a lot of other people agree with.
“Peace is the only thing that needs to be given away for free,” he said.
Hardiman also stated that he felt Coplen is trying to promote his business and wonders if he really cares about the people he wants to arm with guns.
Other community activists are against ACP’s plan including a prominent member of Chicago’s clergy.
The outspoken Rev. Michael L. Pfleger of Saint Sabina Church told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper, “It’s absolutely insulting and it makes me angry. If they care about what’s going in Chicago why don’t they offer to come do some afterschool programs, keep some schools open, do something that’s going to make a transformation?” Rev. Pfleger added, “Dr. King taught us that violence does not end violence.”
However, Coplen believes that his Chicago critics as well as his other critics are off the mark with their assessment of what he and his organization are trying to accomplish.
“Many people have asked me if I am concerned about the potential liability that I may incur from this project. The short answer is no,” Coplen says in an open statement on ACP’s website.
“We will follow every applicable law, and weapons will only go to those that qualify. We are a very litigious society, and I refuse to be bullied into inaction. Even if, heaven-forbid, one of our weapons is misused in a manner causing injury or death, one would have to accept the premise that guns, not people, cause crime, in order to find us liable. I will not play into the hands of the anti-gun establishment. The future belongs to the bold, we must fight.”
ACP is currently registering to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit. For more information about the Armed Citizen Project visit www.armedcitizenproject.org.