ORLANDO – A gun group is offering free shotguns to residents in Florida, billing it as a way for people to protect themselves against crime.
Members of the Florida chapter of the Armed Citizen Project, which is based in Texas, began advertising the program on fliers in the Sunshine Gardens neighborhood near Orlando. The neighborhood is about 25 miles south of Sanford, a city thrust into an international debate about self-defense and race after neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old.
Zimmerman says he shot the teen in self-defense and was cleared of all charges in Martin’s death.
Ron Ritter, president of the Armed Citizen Project of Florida, said the donated guns will reach their new owners through participating dealers or gun shops. The new owners will have to pass a background check and also complete gun safety training, Ritter said Wednesday.
“It’s not one of those things when we hand a gun to someone and don’t hear from them again,” Ritter said. “We’re going to keep in touch if someone is receiving a donation.”
The Armed Citizen Project website says it is focusing its efforts on “mid- to high crime” neighborhoods.
“If my neighbor is armed, my neighborhood is safer,” Ritter said.
It’s not the first city where the group has offered free guns and training; the first was Houston, where residents began receiving their guns earlier this year.
Sunshine Gardens resident Robin McLaughlin, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, told WESH-TV she’s not interested.
“No. I would not need to have a shotgun,” McLaughlin said.