HOUSTON — Houston resident Cheryl Strain’s inexperience with guns was apparent as she struggled to load shells into a 20-gauge shotgun.
Over the piercing blasts of gunfire at a shooting range, Strain’s instructor, Dan Blackford, patiently directed her on how to use her thumb to shove a shell all the way inside the magazine and feel it click.
“Now we got a round in the chamber ready to go,” Blackford said as he positioned her body on the right way to hold the shotgun. “Look down your sight, put that BB right in the middle of your target and press the trigger.”
Strain’s Houston community of Oak Forest is the first neighborhood in the country being trained and equipped by the Armed Citizen Project, a Houston nonprofit that is giving away shotguns to single women and residents of neighborhoods with high crime rates.
While many cities have tried gun buy-backs and other tactics in the ongoing national debate on gun control, the nonprofit and its supporters say gun giveaways to responsible owners are actually a better way to deter crime.
The organization, which plans to offer training classes in Dallas, San Antonio and Tucson, Ariz., in the next few weeks, is working to expand its giveaways to 15 cities this year.
Some Houston residents, while expressing support for Second Amendment rights, question whether more guns will result in more gun-related deaths rather than less crime.
Residents of Oak Forest say their neighborhood has experienced a recent rash of driveway robberies and home burglaries. On a recent afternoon, a group of 10 residents, including Strain, went through training at a Houston gun range.