Sheriff Joe Arpaio is looking to recruit 250,000 Arizona residents to join the fight against terrorism and mass shootings. That’s the approximate number of citizens who currently hold a concealed weapons permit in his home state.
KPHO reports that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio firmly believes the first line of defense should be law enforcement, should a terrorist strike or mass shooting take place in a crowded area. He says, however, having 250,000 concealed weapons permit holders standing ready to fight can go a long way to protect public safety.
“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.
The controversial lawman also wants armed residents to patrol local shopping malls prepared to defend themselves and others. The sheriff reasons that any area where a large number of people gather is a prime target for terrorists or someone looking to commit a violent act.
Even before the terrorist attacks in Paris and the more recent mass shootings in Colorado and California, Arpaio has asked for volunteers to become a part of his shopping mall “posse.” In fact, he has enlisted armed citizens to join the program every holiday season since 1993, but stresses that recent events make the role even more crucial.
According to a Fox 10 report, there have been some crimes like shoplifting reported, however, no violent incidents have ever occurred in the 22 years since the posse volunteers started patrolling. Arpaio says everyone deserves to enjoy the holiday season without fear and is convinced the armed patrols play a part in that.
There are some in law enforcement that disagree with the “Toughest Sheriff in America.”
Chief Deputy in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Steve Henry, says having untrained gun owners adding to a barrage of bullets only increases the risk of injury or death to officers as well as 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 gunfight between anybody, much less a gunfight where people are untrained.”
The mobilized citizenry Arpaio is recruiting is not intended to replace law enforcement.
Sheriff Arpaio just wants gun owners to keep an eye out for trouble and be ready to take action if a shooter goes on a rampage. He hopes that brave citizens will be able to defend themselves and possibly others until police officers can arrive.
Sheriff Arpaio speculates that if someone had a gun during the Planned Parenthood shooting, maybe it would have ended much sooner with fewer lives lost.
Several years ago after a school shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, the Maricopa County Sheriff put together a group of armed citizens with the mission to protect several school districts throughout the Arizona county. The gun-toting members were not to be in the schools, only posted outside along the perimeters of the school grounds.
However, it isn’t just Joe Arpaio that is concerned about public safety.
According to a recent CBS poll, over 69 percent of Americans firmly believe a terrorist attack is likely to happen somewhere in the U.S. within the next few months. This is the highest percentage since the killing of Osama bin Laden in May of 2011.
The Maricopa County Sheriff points out that there are no guarantees when it comes to public safety, so he is encouraging citizens to take matters into their own hands when, and only if, necessary. The sheriff seems comfortable with the criticism of his proposed idea as long as it saves lives.
“All I’m saying is if it’s controversial, then OK, let it be controversial, but we have to protect the public,” Joe Arpaio said.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]