Moreover, many have finished the program and decided to expand their armory beyond the shotgun, or apply for a concealed-handgun license. “We’re arming folks with a gateway gun,” Coplen likes to say. People prize “the feeling of empowerment that comes with being able to protect your life, liberty, and property.”
Pump-action shotguns are pretty good at providing that feeling. They’re an excellent choice for home defense, says Coplen: reliable, cost-effective, and easy to learn how to use. They also are effective for exploding one prominent pro-gun-control talking point: “Piers Morgan and people like him often say they’re only against assault weapons. But if they want to come out against ACP, they must reveal that they are really against the Second Amendment totally.”
Coplen also observes that ACP is taking up a role in the supposed “war on women.” They kicked off in March by arming ten single mothers, and although ACP is currently working to arm a particular neighborhood, single women from all over are eligible to apply to participate, and they’ll be included on a case-by-case basis. Coplen explains that arming women takes precedence over arming neighborhoods, saying, “We’re fighting the liberal war on women one free shotgun at a time.”
As for its neighborhood initiative, ACP has armed 35 residents in Houston’s Oak Forest area — where last year police instructed residents to stay indoors after dusk — and it hopes to arm between 50 and 100, a goal that Coplen says is within easy reach. The plan, then, is to put up signs throughout the neighborhood warning criminals of “increased risk of physical harm.” “We want criminals to know that, if they come into this neighborhood, they are playing Russian roulette with their lives.” He says that Houston law enforcement has been “overwhelmingly supportive,” and he hopes for more input from those on the beat: “I will listen to what any officer on the ground wants to tell me.”
The organization plans to train and arm citizens in 15 cities by the end of the year, including Chicago and New York, known for their particularly stringent gun laws. New York City requires a city-approved gun permit, and investigators can deny them on grounds ranging from an arrest record to a “lack [of] character.” Moreover, if prospective gun owners can get through the permitting process, they still face daunting expenses: New York City charges $140 for a shotgun permit plus a $91.50 fingerprinting charge.
None of this is deterring ACP. “[Chicago mayor] Rahm Emmanuel and [New York City mayor] Michael Bloomberg have overstepped their bounds,” says Coplen, citing both mayors’ vehement anti-gun positions. He thinks private donations could cover New York City’s exorbitant fees, and he is even confident that ACP could win a legal battle against either city, if it came to that.
But Coplen is not interested in simply irking gun controllers, or securing individual neighborhoods, for that matter. Behind the unyielding Second Amendment advocate lurks a social scientist, who is hoping that future data on crime rates in the coming years will show that more guns do, in fact, mean less crime.
He has even received assistance from a famous proponent of that thesis, economist John Lott, who tells National Review Online that he thinks Coplen is onto something: “It is interesting to see how [ACP’s project] contrasts with the Obama administration and the Democrats.” Liberal policy in recent years, Lott observes, has been to impose ever-increasing taxes and fees on prospective gun owners, which “means that poor people are the ones who get priced out of getting to guns for protection” — exactly the demographic most in need of protection. Coplen believes those policies are doing more harm than good, and he is confident that the project’s findings will prove the merits of the opposite policies.
In the meantime, criminals and Second Amendment foes beware. The Armed Citizen Project is on patrol.
— Ian Tuttle is an intern at National Review.