Joe Arpaio, the self-styled “toughest” sheriff in America, has a solution to mass shootings and terrorism: Gun-wielding citizens need to step up to the plate.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, said law enforcement officers alone cannot battle the scourge of violence plaguing the country. As such, he’s beseeching the 250,000 gun owners in Arizona to do their part.
“I'm just talking about the areas where you have large crowds and someone pulls out the gun and starts shooting. Maybe somebody with a concealed weapon takes the guy down,” Arpaio said, according to KPHO-TV.
To make his point, the controversial sheriff cited the example of last week's shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, when a 57-year-old man killed three people.
“I’m concerned about what's going on. Just think about Colorado. If there was someone in there with a concealed weapon that guy would have been shot down,” said Arpaio.
The sheriff’s idea of using armed civilians to battle terrorism is one that he’s actively put into practice.
Since 1993, when Arpaio was elected sheriff, he’s been running an armed civilian posse program, which involves local gun owners patrolling areas in their communities.
Back in 2013, in the weeks after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Arpaio announced that thousands of armed civilians would be deployed to “protect” regions surrounding dozens of Phoenix-area schools.
Over the weekend, the sheriff announced that the posse would be patrolling local malls this holiday season “to provide law enforcement protection to shoppers.”
He noted, however, that even “the volunteer posse can’t do it alone.”
All of Arizona's civilian gun owners need “to take action in the event a terror attack or other violence occurs until law enforcement arrives,” he said in a press release.
That way, terrorists “with evil intent entering large gatherings, including shopping malls, should be worried about armed citizens who will be ready to defend themselves and others.”
Arpaio's strategy has been met with strong disapproval from some in the Arizona law enforcement community.
Steve Henry, chief deputy of the sheriff's office in neighboring Pinal County, told KPHO that the actions of armed, but untrained, civilians could pose an increased risk to innocent bystanders.
“Sometimes it's not proper to pull the trigger because the collateral damage is not worth it,” Henry said. “We don't want to walk into a gun fight between anybody, much less a gun fight where people are untrained.”
A January 2013 Huffington Post survey of Arizona readers found that roughly two-thirds of respondents said they did not feel safer after Arpaio's deployment of armed civilians to local schools.
“I feel innocent people will be hurt or killed. I wouldn't want [the volunteers] patrolling my neighborhood,” one reader said at the time.
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