A local businessman defended Friday a plan to hand out free guns to people in crime-hit parts of Tucson, where US lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in a 2011 massacre.
As local politicians slammed the plan, former mayoral candidate Shaun McClusky told AFP that arming over 30 local people had nothing to do with the Giffords shooting, which revived America's perennial gun control debate.
"I think what happened to Ms Giffords was a horrific incident. But her incident and citizens protecting themselves in their homes are completely unrelated," he said.
"This is about individuals, single parents protecting their families," added McClusky, who said he hopes to give guns to 36 individuals, who will be trained and undergo background checks, to be ready to use them within about 60 days.
Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range in January 2011 while meeting constituents in Tucson, in an attack by a deranged gunman that killed six people, including a US federal judge.
Local politicians have attacked the plan. "Arizonans in Tucson and across the state are demanding that we reduce gun violence and create safer communities," said Arizona lawmaker Victoria Steele, who represents Tucson.
"Handing out shotguns is not a solution," she said, cited by Fox News, which first reported McClusky's plan.
Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell called it "ideological extremism at its worst" and "a political gimmick that could have dangerous consequences," according to Fox.
McClusky, a real estate and property management consultant, confirmed that he got the idea from a program called the Armed Citizen Project, launched in Houston by a master's student at the University of Texas, Kyle Coplen.
The Armed Citizen Project's website describes it as "a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to training and arming residents in mid-high crime areas with defensive shotguns, for free!"