MIAMI
09/25/2013 10:34 am ET | Updated Sep 26, 2013

Armed Citizens Project To Give Away Free Shotguns In Orlando Neighborhood (VIDEO)

About 20 miles south of where self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, a controversial nonprofit group is advertising free shotguns to residents.

WESH reports members of the Armed Citizens Project have been going door-to-door in the Sunshine Gardens area of Orlando, leaving flyers promising free shotguns they say will cut down on crime.

"The Armed Citizen Project of Florida is seeking volunteers to reduce crime in your neighborhood by arming volunteer households with one free shotgun per household," reads a flyer with the headline "Deterring Crime By Empowering Neighborhoods."

Sunshine Gardens is not known as a high-crime area, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and some residents scoffed at the idea.

"That's what really cracked me up," resident Cathy Rodgers told the paper. "I've never felt unsafe in my neighborhood. I just feel like they're preying on people's fears."

"No, I would not need to have a shotgun. No, no," chuckled Robin McLaughlin, who said she has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years, in the video above. "Everybody has the right to bear arms but that doesn't mean we should all have a firearm for our own protection."

The ACP's program director in Florida, Ron Ritter, said that the shotguns are provided after participants complete a training course.

"This is perfectly legal because we're offering a certified gun instruction class, but we're not handing out the shotguns whatsoever," he said. "These guns have to be transferred through a [federally licensed firearms] dealer."

When a similar ACP program controversially reached a Tuscon, Arizona neighborhood after the shooting rampage that wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and killed 6 others, Garen J. Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis, told the Associated Press that it was likely the risk of violence in participating homes would go up.

"People don't want to confront an armed person at home," Wintemute said. "But, separately, there is solid evidence that in communities with higher rates of gun ownership, burglary rates are up, not down, and that's because guns are hot loot."

A new study of gun violence published by the American Journal of Public Health found that states with greater levels of gun ownership tend to have higher rates of gun-related murder.

But ACP project founder Kyle Coplen, a University of Houston graduate student, argues the giveaways could help deter crime.

"It is our hypothesis that criminals have no desire to die in your hallway. We want to use that fear," he told the AP.

ACP has announced it plans to give away shotguns in 15 cities including bloody Chicago.

"It's been overwhelming," Ritter told WESH. "People love it in Florida."

But according to information he gave the Orlando Sentinel, the ACP of Florida has not given away a single shotgun since being founded six months ago.

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