By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Mr. Whippit (played by New Times writer David Holthouse) called back. The rest is history:
Klein [answering]: CBS News.
Whippit: Janet Klein?
Whippit: Pete Whippit with Arm the Homeless in Phoenix.
K: Oh. Hi. Yeah, I was looking through some newspapers here, and I saw the New Times story. Um . . . you're just an Arizona organization?
W: That's correct. As you may have seen on our tee shirts, it said "Phoenix Chapter." We are trying to get--we have some like-minded individuals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and possibly in Portland, where we've sent them some materials on how we organized our first giveaway, and, uh, some of the representatives from the future Los Angeles chapter of Arm the Homeless will be attending our action today outside the America West Arena. But to answer your question, yes, the only active chapter right now is in Phoenix.
K: Now, did you start this?
W: I'm the founder of Arm the Homeless, yes.
K: And what exactly inspired you to do this?
W: Well, I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I wanted to make a, uh, statement to really let people know that the Second Amendment is not just for rich people in this country. You know? Also, the homeless people, they live in the most dangerous areas of America, and they need sidearms and shotguns the most. They have to be able to protect themselves, and they have no means to do it. I'm sure you've read the news accounts of skinheads and street punks setting these people on fire, and it's a travesty, and we wanted to right it, and at the same time make a strong statement in support of the U.S. Constitution.
K: How do you decide who gets them, who you give them to?
W: Well, this was not in the New Times article, and it should have been. We do not simply give guns to every homeless person who shows up. There's a screening process. I mean, none of us are psychiatrists, but if you talk to homeless people on the street, which I have, you can see which ones are more or less sane and which ones are completely off their rocker. It's not that hard. And we did not give guns to people who were apparently crazy. Does that answer your question?
K: Uhhh. Well, yeah. But, so, just by talking to them you would decide --
W: We would just talk to them and, you know, we would explain to them once how to load the gun, and if they were not able to do it the first time, we gave them one more chance, and if they failed to properly load their weapon three times, then we refused them and told them to come back at the next giveaway.
K: Uh-huh. And, do you have any requirements like age, or anything like that?
W: Well, we certainly didn't give any guns to children. But we did give preference to mothers with children.
K: Did you teach them how to use it?
W: The children?
K: No, the mothers.
W: Yeah, absolutely. We taught every gun recipient how to load, clean, dismantle, reassemble, and fire their weapon of choice.
K: And how long do you take teaching them?
W: Uh, it depends on the weapon. I mean, a weapon like the Mac-10 or the Tec-9, that's at least an hour's worth of instruction. Whereas a gun like the .22 Derringer, obviously that only takes a few minutes . . .
K: How many did you give away?
W: How many guns?
W: Almost 80.
K: To 80 people?
W: Correct. Only one gun per recipient.
K: Okay. And so you're giving some away tonight before a game?
W: Yeah, right before the Suns versus Lakers basketball game, outside the America West Arena.
K: How many guns will you take there to give away?
W: It's not going to be as extensive tonight, simply because it's, uh, a more public space. This is more of a demonstration, more of a, uh, symbolic action. We're only going to give away about 25 firearms tonight.
K: When will the next giveaway be?
W: There's a gun show here this weekend called Crossroads of the West, and it's the largest gun show in America, and we plan to make a mass purchase there. But, we're not assured we'll be able to obtain enough quality firearms there for a full giveaway. We may have to wait for another gun show to come around . . .
K: Okay. I may be interested in--let me ask you this first: Is there a tax deduction for donating the guns?
W: We have applied for--that was erroneously reported in the article. We have not received tax-exempt status. But we hope to, although for obvious reasons the government may, uh, try to shut us down in that respect. But that will not stop us, I assure you of that!
W: So far we have not received any donated firearms except from actual members of ATH, although since the New Times article we have received quite a few calls from people offering to donate used guns.