Brian Ellison said he wants to fight for the rights of the homeless -- and that includes giving some of them shotguns.
Ellison, a Libertarian candidate from Michigan running for the U.S. Senate, told MLive.com that the homeless “are probably the most ostracized, victimized oppressed class of people.”
“You can really see how the public perceives the homeless as less than human — it's a shame," he continued. “Homeless people are people too, and they have a right to defend themselves.”
The aspiring Senator said he has a plan to help members of that community to protect themselves.
Ellison originally wanted to give them pistols, he told The Guardian, but that proved challenging because you need a permit in Michigan to carry a concealed pistol.
Since it’s legal to open-carry long guns in Michigan, Ellison said he “thought that pump-action shotguns were a suitable alternative to a pistol.” He assured The Guardian that only homeless people who “pre-qualify” with his team and want a shotgun will receive one.
Right now, he’s hoping to raise around $10,000 and give out 20 shotguns to homeless people in the Detroit metro area, Michigan Radio reported.
There are about 20,000 members of the homeless community in Detroit, according to data from The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and one-third of them are struggling with mental illness.
There’s been a renewed push to restrict the access to weapons for those with mental health issues after a shooter killed 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida. High school students across the nation marched out of classes on Wednesday to advocate for stricter gun laws.
Giving weapons to certain homeless people doesn’t concern Ellison, who told Michigan Radio that he isn’t worried that someone he arms could shoot at police or an innocent person.
“I don't know why the homeless are viewed as such a different type of people as the rest of us," he said. "I carry a gun with me all the time, and I don't victimize anyone. I wouldn't expect that the homeless would use their weapons to fight off the police who are asking them to leave.
“I think the homeless would use their weapons to protect themselves from being victims of violent crimes.”
Ellison plans to provide the newly-armed people with ammunition in the form of six-shell magazines, according to The Guardian, and would give them more bullets only if they used them in self-defense. He said he would work to make sure this gun give-out would “benefit” the recipients, adding that “we’re certainly not trying to force anything on anybody.”
Everyone who got a shotgun would receive training time at a local gun range, Ellison told MLive. He originally created a GoFundMe account to help achieve that goal but the link was eventually taken down.
Ellison, who is looking for another website to collect donations, said he isn’t surprised to have already met some pushback to his idea.
"I assume somebody will try to put a stop to it," he told MLive. "I anticipate there will be pushback, but we plan to work within the limits of the law."
But he insists that there are far scarier things happening in our world than a homeless person with a weapon.
“Police who used to dress in short-sleeved shirts and carry a revolver now have long rifles with scopes and bulletproof vests and armored vehicles,” he told The Guardian. “And quite frankly that scares me much more than a homeless person trying to defend themselves with a shotgun.”