Maricopa County Arizona has a population of about 4 Million, making it the 4th largest county in the U.S.

The Maricopa County seat is Phoenix, the state capital and the sixth-most populous city in the U.S.

The chief law enforcement official in Maricopa County is Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  He has been elected Sheriff 6 times to consecutive 4-year terms as Sheriff.

As the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America” and a perpetual darling of Fox News, Sheriff Arpaio has received plenty of coverage in national media for his somewhat controversial approaches to law enforcement.

By some estimates, Arpaio has cost citizens of Maricopa County more than $44 million because of alleged illegal, vindictive, unethical and unnecessary lawsuits and other actions that he has leveled against his enemies — or people he believed were enemies – ostensibly because those folks objected to the Sheriff’s approach to finding justice.

It seems the majority of those targeted in lawsuits have been politicians; journalists; activists; and others who did not agree with his actions and/or positions.

This approach does not seem to be favorable to the residents, taxpayers and voters in Maricopa County because — rather than hire teachers and police, open libraries, maintain parks or staff hospitals – money is being paid out in settlements to those who have apparently been wronged by Sheriff Arpaio.

Thus it seems that Sheriff Joe Arpaio may be the poster child for a serious failure in our U.S. political system.

Back when Wyatt Earp was appointed Deputy Sheriff for the eastern part of Pima County, Arizona, it was the Wild West. That was almost 150 years ago, and things have changed just a bit.

How is it that we continue to elect the chief law enforcement officer in so many places across the U.S.?

How do we know that the candidates have the best experience and credentials to do the job we expect from them?

In his defense, Arpaio does have some experience in law enforcement.

But, he has no documented successful experience managing people; managing a budget; or managing anything other than his own affairs.

Yes, he apparently graduated from High School, and he served in the U.S. Armed services.

How that qualifies him to be the chief law enforcement officer in the 4th largest county in the United States is baffling, at the least.

It was all good in 1776, and much of it is still good today. But, we really need to update some of our basic rules to adapt them to the realities of the 21st Century.

Open Carry in 2014

June 2, 2014

Despite the overwhelming evidence that America has way too many folks walking around who just aren’t wrapped quite tight, we continue to have a small – but very vocal! – Minority who feel compelled to push the envelope on Open Carry.

I am really OK with Wayne LaPierre and his colleagues at the NRA conviction that America is better off when “…law abiding citizens like you and me” have the unfettered right to own and possess firearms “to protect themselves and their loved ones in the face of criminal violence.”

Where I must draw the line is:  How can we ensure that gun ownership and possession is vested only to those law-abiding citizens like you and me?

My personal theory is that anyone who wants to “open carry” in urban or suburban America might possibly have some serious mental health issues.

Subsequently, I believe there ought to be a law that requires a thorough psychological and critical thinking evaluation for individuals who wish to Open Carry, in addition to some sort of written and basic marksmanship competency exam.

We have an outstanding model:  The U.S. Army’s Basic Combat Training course which they use to qualify soldiers for Open Carry.

Once a non-military (a.k.a. ‘non militia’) individual has been certified through successful completion of this 10 week course, there ought to be a regular re-certification required – say every 6 months, or so.

The NRA and Open Carry supporters focus on our Second Amendment (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”) to support their position(s).

Thus, it ought not be an issue for those who wish to keep and bear Arms to conform with our 21st Century societal mores and show the rest of us that they possess the mental and physical qualifications which the great majority of Americans seem to favor for those who possess deadly weapons.

A recent (informal) poll of Americans revealed that just 22% of respondents owned a gun.  White people came out on top, with 25% saying that they own a gun. Just 17% of African Americans and 10% of Hispanics answered that they personally own a firearm.

By income, the highest percentages of gun owners make more than $80,000 per year; 33% of Republicans, 22% of Independents, and 16% of Democrats self-report as gun owners.

Most telling:  56% of households reported no gun ownership.

Clearly, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the concept of gun ownership in America, and to try and understand why there are so many weapons in the possession of criminals and gang-bangers despite the political pressure from the NRA on the rights of law-abiding citizens.  I am a law abiding citizen.  I don’t currently own a gun.  I would really prefer that none of the criminals or gang-bangers in my vicinity have a gun, either.

I had to pass a test to obtain a license to drive a car.  Then, they forced me to take another test to drive a motorcycle!  And, every year, I have to prove I have insurance, the vehicle has been inspected and then I get to pay a registration fee.

Meanwhile, I can walk into any Walmart, pay a few hundred dollars and walk out with a lethal weapon?

No test, no registration, no insurance required?  Doesn’t quite seem right to me….