Up in Arms
While reading the April 1 article on Arm the Homeless ("Give Piece a Chance") by Inda House (she is very good, by the way; I'm looking forward to her next piece), I was inspired to form my own organization to take on another societal problem that also afflicts the homeless.
I'm referring to alcoholism.

Just as guns are withheld from the homeless for financial reasons, for too long we have withheld alcohol from our citizens for the "crime" of being underage. As a result, we are unprepared for the powerful effect alcohol can have on us when we finally begin to indulge in serious drinking.

Therefore, I am calling on all decent, right-thinking Americans to contribute to my new organization, Whiskey for the Children. Our motto is "Drunk Before 8, or It's too Late."

If we can slowly begin to introduce hard liquor to our children while they are still in infancy or a little older, they will be better prepared to handle it when they reach the age of maturity. Also, by eliminating the "forbidden fruit" aspect of booze, children will be less inclined to binge drink when older. Once you've had to sit through a few kindergarten classes with "the brown-bottle flu," you'll be less inclined to forget important life lessons like not drinking on an empty stomach, not mixing your liquors and the paramount importance of proper vomiting etiquette.

These important lessons learned in childhood will stay with our young people for a lifetime of drinking.

We all know that in numbers there is strength, so I will soon be asking Arm the Homeless to join forces with Whiskey for the Children for a rally and press conference where we can both promote our vitally important missions. How about at Thomas J. Pappas School? There we could kill two birds with one stone, don't you think?

Dan Galvin

Okay, now can you tell us, is Arm the Homeless a real group or an April Fool's joke? If it's a spoof, it's well done; and if it's for real, it's a real indication of danger. The real danger is that even moderately intelligent people like me can wonder if it is a spoof, that it's that believable, that the gun nuts really are that nutty. If Arm the Homeless is real, thanks for your usual excellent journalism in letting people know what's going on. And if it's a spoof, keep up the good work!

Name withheld by request

We don't believe in giving firearms to irresponsible people, no matter who they are. We also don't believe in blindly throwing our money away to irresponsible governments. Both need to be educated of the proper handling and the rules that govern their use before being entrusted with firearms or money. The government would need to prove it knows and follows the Constitution, while a firearm owner needs to prove that they are responsible and can follow applicable laws before being given a firearm. We believe all people have the right to own a firearm; we're just stating what criteria we'd use before we give them away.

Mike Johnson
Arizona Constitutional Rights Committee

I respect(ed) New Times and feel that your publication has some of the best writers in Arizona. New Times is sometimes the only publication willing to pick up and expose controversial issues with names and facts. However, your April Fool's "joke" article about Arm the Homeless is not journalistic writing and is, at the very most, sick, especially in light of the recent police shootings and the continued downtown efforts to make our urban core viable again. You have done yourself a disservice by letting this article be published, and I can say only that it was a lapse of good judgment on your part.

Lisa Irwin
via Internet

I read "Give Piece a Chance" and viewed the Web site of the Arm the Homeless group (www.armthehomeless.com). As a law-abiding, taxpaying American gun owner, I and others are appalled at what they have done and are doing.

So I figure it like this: Either they are a very deranged group that is anti-establishment and anti-government, hoping that their deeds "get even" with the social evils done to them in their own self-righteous, delusional world, or they are a very clever militia-oriented (foreign-backed?) subversive group, hoping that their deeds create more negative media coverage and the public's demand for more gun regulations, which in turn leads up to more bans and the eventual confiscations, i.e., the decay of the Second Amendment as we know it.

Either way, Arm the Homeless is doing an injustice. It is a totally absurd concept. The homeless need food, shelter, education and the chance to earn an income--not guns! Second, in the free-gun free-for-all, many of the homeless are more than likely falsifying ATF Form 4473 (if they can read at all), and many may be in a questionable mental state of mind in the first place. That is not being insensitive. That is the unfortunate reality of many of their predicaments. Then there is the issue of concealed carry. Right off the bat, if they tuck away a pistol in their bag or bedroll, it is technically illegal to carry.

Arm the Homeless does not care if one of their free gun recipients later shoots it out over a pack of cigarettes, over a favorite street corner to ask for handouts, or simply over a place to sleep on a cold night. They don't care if the homeless walk the streets of downtown Phoenix and pull a gun on someone just because they looked at them differently. Arm the Homeless does not care, because they are on their own covert mission.

To law-abiding, gun-owning citizens, and to law-abiding non-gun-owning citizens, they, and "freedom fighters" like them, (whom I seriously question the validity of), are demonstrating that they are more of an enemy to the public than the United States government ever will be. I don't fear our government; I fear radical subversive groups like Arm the Homeless. The government will not take our rights away. Instead, unorthodox groups like Arm the Homeless are giving our rights away, little by little, by creating a negative focus to such issues as the "right to keep and bear arms."

The article said Arm the Homeless purchased their guns legally at gun shows via "cash and carry." That's just great. That's exactly what the anti-gunners and the public want to hear. I'll bet they are proud of themselves for further infecting the system and creating more controversy that is not needed.

Arm the Homeless and people like them will be the cornerstone of the anti-gun success in the United States of America, which, I believe, is the real mission of Arm the Homeless.

Name withheld by request

At best, this is the scariest article ever brought to my attention. Remind me never to visit Phoenix. Your city, which 'til now has been respectable, even with your state's insanely loose gun laws, has just fallen apart at the seams. Pass a damn ordinance. That's just insane.

Jim Long
Lansing, Michigan

I first read this and could not believe that anyone could be so stupid as to be giving guns to the homeless. Then I realized what day it was! You really had me going for a minute. Another great April Fool's article. It rates up there with gold in the Galleria and the Verde River Beatles Reunion Float-In.

Scott Christian
via Internet

I assume that this story is meant to coincide with the Feast of All Fools--it steers just close enough to the plausible to be fun. Couldn't be a plot by Symington to bring down property values in order to give him a leg up for a comeback, could it? And speaking of J. Fife, how's he doing these days?

David Ware
via Internet

I was more than disheartened when I read your article in reference to the giving away of firearms to homeless individuals. After numerous calls, I was led to believe that this may have been an April Fool's prank. If in fact it was a prank, it was a cruel, sinister prank on the homeless, whom I always thought your paper was an advocate for. This article will increase the prejudice toward the homeless ("Does he have a gun?"). I think you have outdone Benson. Why not pick on someone your own size?

If it was not a prank, we have a real serious problem here. Besides losing a reader, I have never felt like moving from the Valley of the Sun until today.

Name withheld by request

Great joke, you really got some people literally "up in arms." Happy Fool's Day.

David Petersen
via Internet

Inspired by your feature, we have named our new band E.R.A.C. and are putting together our latest album titled: "Arm the Homeless." Here's our list of songs:

1. Gimme That Bottle. No. BAM;
2. Marty's Pawn;
3. Are You a Cop in Trouble? (I Don't Wanna Be No Hero);
4. Don't Run a Red Light on My Block!;
5. Asshole. Bang!;
6. Packin' Phoenix Heat;
7. Hey Joe;
8. Tent City Tan;
9. Hey Buddy! Gimme Dat Dime!;
10. Second and Fillmore;
11. Two Bullet for a Bottle;
12. Full Moon Shoot-Out;
Bonus Track--13. ERAC Emergency Room Air Conditioning.
Mercedes Murphy

Regarding the article "Give Piece a Chance": Are you guys nuts? Now, it's going from, "Hey, man, got any spare change?" to "Your money or your life!"

There are so many things wrong with this stunt, I'd need my own column.
K.D. Stowe

This is your best-ever spoof. I hope you had a good turnout for your gun giveaway at America West Arena.

Carol McDowell
via Internet

Your April Fool's article on Arm the Homeless was brilliant. I laughed so hard that I was crying by the end. Unfortunately, I'm sure that you will get a flood of letters from the anti-gun crowd, which has absolutely no sense of humor. I only wish my local paper was courageous enough to print a spoof of such a controversial issue. A little humor is good for everyone.

Ed Hardway
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Wow! The "Give Piece a Chance" story was a great April Fool's Day joke! It took me about 30 seconds of reading it before I caught on.

J. Krist
via Internet

To say I was dumfounded by the prospect of offering free guns to the homeless, no questions asked, would be a major understatement. I support the Second Amendment, but not at the expense of public safety and common sense. Here is one individual who hopes like hell that this was an April Fool's joke.

Name withheld by request

This is a joke, right? I am a self-professed gun lover, but I think this is going a little too far. So, when are the shootings going to begin? Manny will be held accountable. By the way, where can I get one of those tee shirts?

Ron Bloom
via Internet

I think arming the homeless is the most absurd thing I've ever heard of! This is going to cause complete chaos. Instead of spending money to supply them with weapons, why aren't people helping provide the homeless with shelters? This way, they wouldn't need weapons, and they would be off the street!

K. Porter

What a stupid idea! What is the purpose of giving guns to the homeless? Oh, wait, I get it, now they can rob the rich and give to the poor! What an idea! Or maybe they can better themselves by shooting at mattresses, cans or even people. Are these homeless people qualified to carry firearms--concealed or otherwise? Did they pass the concealed-weapons class? Did they get fingerprinted with a background check? Or are they better than the rest of the public? Since they are willing to learn about firearms, maybe they should be able to learn how to earn a living the honest way, not by begging on the street corners! The time and energy that is spent handing out firearms and ammunition should be redirected to building a facility for the homeless to consider home. Then they can get honest jobs to get their lives back together!

Firearms for the homeless. What a crock! Okay, the Arm the Homeless members did their homework; they notified all the pawnbrokers in the Valley not to purchase any firearms from the homeless. What is stopping them from selling the arms to gang members or children? Duh? They really thought this through--not!

Billy Williams
via Internet

I hope this is a joke. They keep telling us that the homeless are people who cannot take care of themselves because they have mental problems, drug addiction, they are social misfits, Vietnam vets--real or pretend, etc. And then to provide them with weapons with no strings attached (no address, no CCW, background check)? Since a lot of the cities are suing the gun manufacturers for crimes committed with guns they produced, sold, and that are completely out of their control, is the Arm the Homeless group going to assume responsibility for any crimes, accidents, etc., the homeless commit? I think they should be required to post a bond ($1 million minimum) for each weapon/gun they provide to anyone, homeless or not.

Are there any checks and balances built into this program? Is anyone checking to see if the guns are still in the hands of the ones they were given to? It seems to me that this is putting unregistered guns from who knows where on the streets that can be sold to criminals, drug dealers or anyone else who wants an unregistered gun for whatever reason. I sure hope that this does not catch on and that someone puts a stop to it.

Name withheld by request

You should be ashamed of yourself, trying to scare people in your city. If I am a United States Constitution fanatic, it is because I don't want my wife, children and myself to become food for a criminal predator or a slave.

John H. Sircy
Goodwell, Oklahoma

As if your story about the gun giveaway to homeless people wasn't frightening enough, the boldly printed paragraph at the end practically blew me away (no pun intended). It seems New Times is putting its stamp of approval on its readers participating in round two (okay, pun intended this time) of this insanity.

Maybe now the City of Phoenix will be granted its fondest wish. No more panhandling! It will be replaced with armed robbery!

Jenny Santesteban

As you may surmise by my previous letter, you really had me going there. It only took me one day to realize that it was all a huge joke. I want to thank you for this, as I was so worried that that story was actually true, and my April Fool's Day was so nondescript.

Jenny Santesteban

It seems to me we now have a new criminal organization here in Phoenix, the homeless! This group, Arm the Homeless, has just created a new criminal class under the guise of protecting the homeless. I recognize two of the "new" gun owners in your article. Both of them turned violent toward me when I refused to give them money. Now it looks like I will be forced to donate to their cause the next time. Well, at least when the police find my body, they will have no problem spotting the getaway cart. Arm the Homeless, a new godfather, has come to power in Phoenix! What possible insanity could grip this man? Possibly he couldn't afford to recruit and pay professional criminals to do his criminal work? Or is this group's next project to arm the citizens to protect them from gun-toting homeless? This has to be stopped now!

Name withheld by request

Yes, most things in life are routinely predictable, especially bloviating, self-proclaimed connoisseurs and hack food critics like Howard Seftel of your paper. How could I not laugh at such a woeful display of stupidity cloaked in the guise of expertise and adventurousness? His review of Flo's ("Won Ton Abandon," March 25) certainly calls into question Seftel's dubious credentials as New Times' food critic and leaves me to wonder whether he has not been overcome by a bit of economic ressentiment.

The phrase "gustatory ignorance" appropriately describes Seftel's comments about the food at Flo's. Perhaps there is an "Idiot's Guide to Chinese Cuisine" from which he took such misunderstood concepts as "yin and yang" (used in reference to Flo's shrimp and mushroom dish) or his ideas on authentic Chinese food. Certainly Seftel would not appreciate Flo's Cantonese-style won ton soup when he is used to the MSG-laden chicken broth served in most places. Nor would he have recognized the Hangzhou-style West Lake Beef Soup made with onion oil or the Guizhou-style Beef Noodle Soup made with star anise and Szechuan peppers.

Of course, Mr. Seftel's benighted remarks about the decor of Flo's as having "virtually no signs . . . aural or visual, that you're in a Chinese restaurant," are understandable. There are no dragon murals, panda pictures, laughing Buddha figurines or terra cotta statues as in the Chinese restaurants he probably frequents. I did happen to count, however, six large paintings by the Chinese artist Jiang Tiefeng hanging on the walls of the restaurant. I also noticed the popular Chinese music streaming through the loudspeakers and the conspicuous wood impression of Florence Chan's name in Chinese to the left as I entered the front door.

There is no reference to the service--essential, I thought, to any restaurant review--which, by the way, is excellent. Seftel betrays his affinity for buffet-style Chinese with his comments about "western cutlery" and "Fiestaware." I will leave Mr. Seftel to believe that the plastic, sectioned plates and waribashi chopsticks (not Chinese) in most Chinese restaurants are indispensable to the "exotic Asian complexity" he seeks.

Ironically, Seftel's lack of knowledge about Chinese food is nowhere more evident than in the review immediately following his on Flo's, in which he lambastes another restaurant's food while saying, "there's precious little regional bounty on the menu--unless of course, you believe egg rolls, kung pao chicken, moo shu pork, sweet and sour chicken, Mongolian beef, shrimp fried rice and chow mein are native delights." The last time I traveled through China, I encountered all of these dishes in nearly every part of the country.

It is sad to see one so intoxicated with the idea of the "Mysterious East" that his sense, as well as his palate, has been so benumbed. Stay with your romantic imaginings of China, Mr. Seftel; I will continue to eat in the "vaguely sterile" setting of Flo's.

Paul Davidson

McCain's Record
I, of course, have no knowledge of John McCain's behavior while a POW, and until I learn for certain that it was less than honorable, I am prepared to honor him for performing his duty as an American serviceman ("Is John McCain a War Hero?" Amy Silverman, March 25).

I do have some knowledge of McCain in another context. When he first ran for Congress in 1982, I was asked by a Republican colleague of mine if I, a liberal Democrat, would explain "American federalism" to John. I at least attempted to do that on two separate occasions.

Based on those approximately three hours of discussion ("tutoring?"), I found him quick, anxious, thoughtful and pleasant, if not charming. Had he been a student of mine in American government at ASU, I believe he probably would have been capable of earning an A.

Whether this qualifies him to be President of the U.S., I am not sure. As I have followed his career in Congress, I have observed his behavior to swing from the sky to the gutter. Clearly, there are times when he is a "compassionate conservative," and then there are times when he comes across as just plain mean. If he can keep his temper in control, he has the capability to be a good Republican candidate for president in 2000.

Bruce B. Mason

My thanks to you for an excellent piece of journalism. Your article was informative and even-handed.

I'm a McCain supporter and, naturally, I tend to "get my hackles up" when his status as a POW is questioned.

However, this is an issue that will inevitably arise in his bid for the presidency. I'm glad to see that the first comprehensive article on the subject is well-balanced. Your piece didn't attempt a McCain whitewash, nor did it ignore the vested interests of McCain's detractors in the POW/MIA community. You thoroughly examined the issue and the motives of those on both sides of it.

Your article has done its job: You've informed me of the facts and have allowed me to draw my own conclusions.

My faith in the "Fourth Estate" has risen a notch or two.
Frank Knuppel
via Internet

Language Arts
I would first like to add our commendations for "Bilingual Blues" (March 18) to those you have already received. Michael Kiefer's article was unusually in-depth and informative. However, I couldn't help but smile as I read Ron Unz's letter in response. What a stretch it must have been for someone who communicates in sound bites and cliches on this subject to have complimented the thoroughness and unbiased nature of your reportage. Of course, such a letter was very politic. Was I the only one who got the significance of his comment to Lisa Graham Keegan, "Lisa, you'll get re-elected," as quoted in your article? This is a man who only wants what is best for the children? Perhaps his initiative drive should be renamed "Children As Stepping Stones for Ron Unz's Political Aspirations," first in California, next in Arizona, then in the rest of the Southwest and, ultimately, who knows, if his money lasts?

Dorelyn A. Kunkel
via Internet

Life of a Brain
". . . and a delicate crap plops forth."
Amen. If there's a more accurate description of Brian Smith's writing (and music, for that matter), I've not yet seen it. Smith's opus on dog racing ("Prix Dog Night," April 1) is yet another in a long line of insipid turds. Quite frankly, I don't think it's worth giving up one page of ad space to publish this dung.

C.D. Connelly
via Internet

Case for the Showcase
In response to the writer of the letter titled "Right Punks" (Letters, April 1):

Melanie needs to take a few things into consideration before spouting off. First of all, who would be the perfect person to nominate bands? You? Some will be left off the ballot unless you plan on including all of the 100-plus decent punk bands in the Phoenix scene. Of course everyone has his favorites; you listed seven of your own in your letter. Unbiased selection is next to impossible. Notice how none of the bands wrote in to complain? Most true punk bands aren't looking for widespread recognition, they're doing it to do it. Most punks I know could give two shits about being nominated for the New Times Showcase. They're not losing any sleep over it. Suggestion: Start your own mag and you can hold your own showcase. Then I can write and bitch about you leaving my band off.

Where can I get my Arm the Homeless tee shirt? Hee-hee.
Fred Jones


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