FOUNTAIN HILLS, ARIZONA, UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 09, 2013) (REUTERS) - Action film star Steven Seagal, famed for pummeling and shooting on screen bad guys, took on a new role Saturday (February 09), training posse volunteers for controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in how to use guns to protect students during shooting incidents.
Arpaio, who styles himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," enlisted Seagal to train hisMaricopa County posse members at a school in Fountain Hills, a suburb northeast ofPhoenix, using children as stand-ins for scared students.
A burly martial arts expert turned actor, Seagal guided 48 volunteers through various aspects of shooting scene management, including room-to-room searches, critiquing their work.
"I am here to try to teach the posse firearms and martial arts to try to help them learn how to respond quicker and help protect our children," Seagal said.
Arpaio, whose tough stance on crime and illegal immigration has made him a celebrity, dispatched the volunteer posse to patrol schools in response to the shooting rampage that claimed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school in December.
Those murders touched off a renewed debate over gun violence in America. PresidentBarack Obama proposed the most sweeping package of gun-control measures in generations, including a ban on assault weapons.
Arpaio's volunteers, some trained and qualified to carry the same guns as deputies, can intervene if there is imminent threat to life. To add realism, semi-automatic weapons and handguns firing marking rounds were used in Saturday's training.
"It's important to help protect our children and our schools and we need to do that with whatever means we have," said Rick Velotta, a posse member who attended the training.
"No gun should ever be in a school," Wharton said.
At a news conference, Arpaio expressed his disagreement with the protesters: "I don't know what these protesters are talking about. I'm going to say it again, for those protesters, we are here to protect the children, that's the main mission, they can say whatever they want, but I'm not going to stop."
Arpaio's 3,450-strong posse of unpaid men and women has for years helped the sheriff target drunk drivers and illegal immigrants, and chase down fathers behind on child support.
A sometime resident of the Phoenix Valley and member of Arpaio's posse, Seagal starred in big-budget films in the 1980s and early 1990s, earning a reputation as an action star in movies like "Above the Law" and "Under Siege."
He more recently played a corrupt Mexican drug lord in the Robert Rodriguez grindhouse flick "Machete" in 2010.