How did Joe Arpaio manage to lose fully automatic assault weapons?

Be on the lookout for 27 guns, some of them fully automatic weapons, lost by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

It seems that while then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio was running all over the county chasing brown people and running all over Hawaii chasing Barack Obama’s birth certificate and running from TV station to TV station chasing publicity, pieces of his agency’s arsenal were walking out the door.

Two of those weapons were found this week, used to shoot and wound three Department of Public Safety officers during a rush-hour shoot-out on Interstate 17, near Seventh Street.

Let me say that again: a high-powered rifle used to shoot DPS officers belonged to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Rifle was missing for at least 3 years

Sheriff Paul Penzone says the rifle, and one other MCSO gun found in the suspect’s car, were last seen sometime between 2010 and 2015. Nobody knows where they went or how MCSO lost them.

He said that an 2016 audit shows 27 other weapons, some of them fully automatic, still are out there, somewhere.

“The fact that any dangerous individual in our community can acquire possess and use fully automatic weapons … is unacceptable and intolerable,” Penzone said during a press conference on Wednesday. 

Arpaio seemed not all that concerned.

“Vaguely remember there were some weapons unaccounted for,” he said in a statement to ABC15. “I’m sure my staff looked into it and took whatever action necessary.”

No doubt.

Really, should we be surprised?

I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised at this particular display of Arpaio-era department discipline. This is what you get when you have a politician rather than a professional cop running a law enforcement agency.

A sheriff who obsessed about our security with all those dishwashers and gardeners running about even as MCSO machine guns were walking out the back door.

Penzone has vowed to investigate how the suspect, who was killed in Monday’s shootout, got the guns and to tighten controls to ensure that that more weaponry doesn’t disappear only to someday surface and be used to shoot police … or you or me.

Meanwhile, there are 27 MCSO guns, some of them fully automatic, out there, somewhere.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com.

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