A controversial plan from Arizona's Sheriff Arpaio will send armed members of his volunteer posse to some Phoenix schools to provide security. Oralia Ortega, of KPNX, reports.
By Miranda Leitsinger, NBC News
Arizona sheriffs and the state’s attorney general are pushing controversial programs to allow school officials and volunteers to carry guns in the wake of the shootings at a Connecticut school that left 20 children dead.
The latest proposal comes from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-described toughest sheriff in America, who wants to station his “posse” of volunteers outside of about 50 schools in Maricopa County within a week, according to KPNX, a local NBC station.
“Everybody else is talking about what their ideas are. They want new laws. This is immediate. I don't need a new law to send out my posse,” he told NBC affiliate, KPNX, on Thursday. “I feel like we should do whatever we can outside of the schools.”
Arpaio’s volunteers number about 3,000, with 300 to 400 carrying weapons. They log about 100 hours of training and undergo background checks, just like deputies, according to KPNX.
He first sent out his posse in 1993 to guard malls over the holiday season because of violence at those venues in the past. He believed that program worked, saying there have been zero violent re-occurrences, azfamily.com reported.
Arpaio’s plan follows similar ones released earlier this week: Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has proposed arming willing principals, according to ABC15.com, while Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said he wanted to arm a designated employee in every school, KPNX reported.
“Why not use these people we trust if they are willing to protect themselves and our children?” Babeu said.
Horne said a few counties have indicated they’d like to sign up for his program, though state law currently prohibits having firearms on public school campuses. Horne said he already has a sponsor for the necessary state legislation to implement his plan.
Anti-gun advocates and former educators denounced the idea of arming school staffers. Geraldine Hills, of Arizonans for Gun Safety, called it “outrageous.”
“Cops aren’t teachers, teachers aren’t cops,” she told KPNX. “It’s a very nice what-if scenario, this fantasy of the armed civilian hero. It doesn’t play out in real life.”
“I don’t feel that I would want to be in a position of being responsible for either a concealed weapon or securing a weapon on campus,” Gregg Baumgarten, a former principle outside of Phoenix, told the station. “I just think it’s a recipe for disaster.”
The Arizona officials’ stance echoed that of the National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre, who said he supported putting armed guards and police in schools in response to the Newtown shootings in which the gunman, Adam Lanza, also shot six administrators dead. Police say Lanza shot his mother to death earlier at their home.
“If it’s crazy to call for putting police in and securing our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” LaPierre told NBC’s David Gregory. “I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe and the NRA is going try to do that.”
Some districts said they were preparing to take LaPierre’s recommended action, while other educators cautioned that doing so would send the wrong message about education.
After a controversial press conference last week, NRA head Wayne LaPierre made an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" saying the American people would be "crazy" to not put armed guards in schools. Meanwhile, Newtown, Conn., continues coping with the death of 26 people during the tragic shooting. NBC's Ron Mott report.