By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Then there was the aspiring entrepreneur:
Fuck you. You guys are fuckin' stupid. I'm gonna go down there and buy them guns from those bums for about five bucks each, you fuckin' idiots.
The idea of people without heat packin' heat scared the bejesus out of many. One "seriously concerned citizen" feared the homeless would "use the guns they've been donated to take homes away from people who pay the mortgages."
And we almost felt sorry for this call-girl caller:
Yeah, I just read the article in the New Times, and I think it's absolutely ludicrous. First of all, I'm an escort. I work in a dark building and I'm alone late at night, and when I leave the building there are homeless people around. I think it's just totally unfair what you've done. If you're going to do something like that, you should at least talk to the citizens about it. It's fucking dangerous! I'm scared to death now, because there are homeless people walking around that want to break into my car, that want to harass me, and now you've armed them. You're fuckin' stupid! Maybe you're armed, but I'm not.
What scared us were the some three dozen people who called in support of Arm the Homeless. The first actually choked and said, "God bless you!" Most of them wanted to volunteer and donate guns and ammo. One wanted to trade 1,000 .22 rounds for an Arm the Homeless tee shirt (tee-shirt requests were common). Another offered to help write grant proposals. A woman who said she wanted to "leave a message before every crazy in town called you" suggested that if Arm the Homeless was short on cash, the group could "distribute some high-grade combat blade weapons" instead of guns.
It gets weirder. Several correspondents confessed that they weren't homeless, but couldn't afford a gun and could they please, please have one.
Another faction believed New Times had been duped by liberal operatives, plotting to stain the pro-gun movement:
You guys have gotta be workin' undercover for anti-gun ownership. I just find it hard to believe that what you guys are doing will help me keep my gun. Thank you. Bye.
One more from the black ops file:
It's easy to tell you're a bunch of liberals trying to discredit the real Second Amendment right advocates. Get a life!
Pete Whippit got plenty of e-mail through the Arm the Homeless Web site:
Hi, Pete, I was delighted to read about Arm the Homeless in the Phoenix New Times. I hope that your organization is genuine, and not merely an elaborate April Fool's prank. I will be relocating to the Phoenix metro area this July, and I am very interested in helping out in any way I can. I realize that your recent press coverage will no doubt result in a deluge of e-mail and phone calls, but I really would appreciate a brief reply indicating whether or not I have been had.
Okay. You've been had.
Ditto to this alarmed e-mailer:
Has it occurred to you fucking brainless morons that there has been a rash of killings in Phoenix that started about the same time you idiots handed out these guns to the homeless? SHITHEADS! INNOCENT PEOPLE ARE DYING BECAUSE OF YOU!
That claim is a vexing contradiction to a message left by some gun-loving know-it-all (or brilliant co-conspirator) who averred to one online user group:
What the Phoenix New Times story did not say was that crime on the street regarding the homeless dropped like a rock over night.
Some readers responded with calls (roughly 200) and letters (30 or so) not to Arm the Homeless but to New Times:
This article is insane! I am one who truly believes that it is our constitutional right to bare [sic] arms. I also believe that you should earn the right to bare those arms by hard work and diligent patriotism to the mother land, not by sucking of the nipple of America and panhandling your way through life. Life is precious and those of us who WORK hard and pay our TAXES are the Americans that have earned the right to bare arms.
Please, Nathan Hale, do roll up your sleeves.
More dripping vitriol:
Hopefully these homeless scumbags turn and kill Whippit, then turn the guns on themselves. That would be the best thing to happen with this. Get more of the lower class people off of my planet.
In addition to the hundreds of callers who simply chortled and hung up, or took the time to say, "Nice one," we also got e-mail props from one who got the joke:
You have just cemented yourselves as the most brilliant counter-culture paper in the entire Western United States. Our undying devotion goes out to whichever staffer diligently researched and wrote the article about the homeless and their desperate search for peace through firepower. We have always respected your paper, but now we admire your paper. Keep up the good work. Our sincere gratitude for making our day."
What most made our day was the message from 60 Minutes II producer Janet Klein, requesting an interview with "Mr. Whippit."