(PHOENIX) — Controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants to put armed volunteers outside schools in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting.
Arpaio said in an interview with ABC/Univision on Friday that putting armed guards around schools would deter would-be shooters from committing violent acts. He plans to place his 3,000-person strong “volunteer posse” around Phoenix-area schools for added protection.
“I think it’s the appropriate time to utilize this free resource to try to prevent any more massacres,” Arpaio said.
The sheriff said he has the authority to direct his volunteers to guard the schools. The “posse” includes everyone from former law enforcement officials to lawyers, Arpaio said. The sheriff’s office trains them on how to use weapons properly, he said.
The remarks come shortly after National Rifle Association Executive Director Wayne LaPierre called for armed police officers in every school in the country.
“It doesn’t matter whether they like it or don’t like it,” Arpaio said, regarding whether schools want armed guards. “I’m still going to do it. I can’t imagine criticism coming when they’re given free protection.”
It’s not the first time the sheriff has suggested using armed volunteers to combat violence. His posse patrolled malls following incidents in the mid-1990s, and the group has also “gone after illegal immigration and drug trafficking,” he said. The posse is comprised of volunteers who donate their time free of charge.
Arpaio is well-known within the Latino community for being a staunch supporter of Arizona’s immigration laws, including the “show me your papers” provision that allows officers to check the immigration status of suspects they think might be in the country without permission.
“I’m always going to get critics,” Arpaio said. “They’ll probably say I’ve got the posse out there to arrest kids who are in this country illegally. That’s not the case. That’s not true. They’re there to protect all kids.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Tom LoBianco, Deirdre Walsh and Tal Kopan, CNN