Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio said he plans to send members of his department’s volunteer “posse” to patrol schools as a response to the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
“Everybody else is talking about what their ideas are. They want new laws,” the Maricopa County sheriff told KPNX-TV on Thursday. “This is immediate. I don’t need a new law to send out my posse.”
Arpaio said his plan, which he hopes to put into effect next week, would have volunteers providing security at 50 schools that fall under his jurisdiction. According to the station, the group of about 3,000 members includes 300 to 400 allowed to carry weapons following 100 hours of training and background checks identical to the kind actual members of his department undergo. They also wear similar uniforms and drive Sheriff’s Department vehicles while on duty.
“The visual presence of a marked patrol car is a wonderful presence, and a deterrent for anyone that might think that they might want to go on school grounds,” said one volunteer, Jerry Johnson.
Arpaio’s plan follows calls from the National Rifle Association and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to provide firearms training to school personnel. Paul Babeu, the sheriff for Pinal County, has also proposed arming principals and establishing “sitting duck zones” at schools.
Supporters of stricter gun regulations are also leery of plans like Horne’s.
“Cops aren’t teachers, teachers aren’t cops,” said Geraldine Hills, a member of the board of directors for Arizonians for Gun Safety. “It’s a very nice what-if scenario, this fantasy of the armed civilian hero. It doesn’t play out in real life.”
While gun advocates have proposed escalating the amount of weapons on school grounds, it has been pointed out that armed personnel were unable to stop mass shootings at both Columbine High School and Fort Hood, Texas.
Watch KPNX’s report on Arpaio’s plan, aired Thursday, below.