In a stretch of barren desert alongside Interstate 8 near Gila Bend that has become a corridor for human and drug smuggling, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and about 100 men staged a crime-suppression operation Thursday.
Arpaio brought with him a belt-fed .50-caliber machine gun that can shoot accurately up to a mile as a display of the kind of force he would use if anyone hurts a deputy.
"I am trying to send a message to Mexico," he said. "We will not take anyone hurting our deputies. We will fight back."
No word if Arpaio also brought his armored personnel carrier, which has been known to careen out of control and smash into lowly citizen automobiles.
Arpaio isn't the only sheriff sporting a .50-caliber machine gun. As I wrote in 2008, Richland County, South Carolina Sheriff Leon Lott has one too, mounted to Lott's own APC. He calls it "The Peacemaker." I consulted an expert on the appropriateness of the weapon:
Charles Earl Barnett, a U.S. Marines veteran and retired police major who has served on several United Nations and NATO military and peacekeeping missions, says a .50-caliber machine gun is "completely inappropriate" for domestic police work. It "causes mass death and destruction," Barnett says. "It's indiscriminate. I can't think of a possible scenario where it would be appropriate."
I didn't specifically ask him at the time, but I'm guessing Barnett would not be inclined to make an exception for "shooting at Mexicans."
(Hat tip: Say Uncle)