A Tucson activist is spearheading a campaign to purchase school supplies for kids who live in the same neighborhoods slated to receive free shotguns.
Sal Baldenegro Jr. developed the idea after speaking with residents in the Midvale, Pueblo Gardens and Grant and Campbell neighborhoods about Shaun McClusky's plans to arm residents there as a crime deterrent.
"The residents I spoke to are upset and insulted ... over an outsider bringing guns into their neighborhoods without ever consulting them," Baldenegro said.
The idea behind the program is to curb crime by improving a child's education rather than placing a gun in his parent's hand.
"We wanted to take a more proactive response," Balde-negro said. "What will result in a safer and healthier Tucson community? Giving away free shotguns or doing everything we can to promote our childrens' education and to help them succeed?"
He hopes to raise $12,000 by August so he can start delivering the supplies by the start of the next school year.
Fundraising began last week, and so far the group has collected $260.
Baldenegro's group may have picked up another likely donor recently.
McClusky said he's "wholeheartedly" behind the project, and said he was going to donate to ensure the group meets its fundraising goals.
"I think it's a great idea," McClusky said. "I'd be glad to pitch in."
He said the two programs are not mutually exclusive and will both benefit the community.
In 2010 and 2011, McClusky said he implemented a similar program through his company, Rincon Ventures, to drop off school supplies in the Pueblo Gardens Neighborhood.
As for his shotgun handout, McClusky said money is pouring in from around the country, although he didn't have exact numbers available, saying he had been out of town recently and hadn't spoken with his group's treasurer.
Plans are to start spreading leaflets and other promotional activities in the select neighborhoods within the next few weeks.
A McClusky critic, city Councilman Steve Koza-chik, said the gun handout amounts to little more than political grandstanding.
"McClusky's stunt is a dangerous and twisted effort on his part to achieve relevancy in the community. ... Kids in low-income areas need books and other school supplies, not shotguns and ammunition," Kozachik said.
Kozachik, who is working with Baldenegro on the school supply drive, said this shows how disconnected McClusky is with Tucsonans and hopes his "15 minutes of fame" is almost expired.
"Shaun can just slip away and sit alone in his basement shining his shotguns," Koza-chik said.
Contact Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or firstname.lastname@example.org