George Graham

Group Should be Liable for Giving Away Guns

Residents of a quiet Orlando neighborhood were startled recently when the area was flooded by fliers offering them free shotguns. But the group distributing the shotguns – the Armed Citizens Project of Florida – reports that “hundreds” of residents said yes to the offer.
I live in Florida so I’m accustomed to bizarre behavior, but even in the sunstroke state, this seems dangerously weird. What are they trying to do? Get Mickey Mouse assassinated?
This is not local weirdness, however. It originated in another – even weirder – state, Texas. It’s the brainchild of University of Houston graduate student Kyle Coplen, who believes the shotguns will deter crime.
Coplen is – how do I say this politely – mistaken.
I was a newspaper reporter in Florida for many years, and I can assure him that the shotguns are more likely to end up wounding or killing a family member or neighbor than a burglar.
Furthermore, studies show it’s more likely the risk of break-ins will go up, not down.
To quote Garen J. Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis:
People don’t want to confront an armed person at home. 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.

I live about 50 miles from Orlando, but I am certainly not tempted to hop in the car and go looking for one of the free shotguns. The Lakeland Police Department is a lot closer, and I can dial 9-1-1 faster than I can load a shotgun. Besides, the cell phone is not likely to go off accidentally and blow off my foot – or Sandra’s.

Gun nuts like Coplen may just be trying to make a point by distributing weapons in the area where Treyvon Martin was shot to death, but they’re playing with fire. If someone is wounded or killed by one of the free shotguns, the group that distributed it should be liable for damages.

Click here to read about the free shotguns.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for