New York: Ulster County Sheriff urges citizens to carry firearms


KINGSTON, N.Y. >> Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum wants county residents who are licensed to carry firearms to do just that.

In a post Thursday morning on the Ulster County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, Van Blarcum wrote: "In light of recent events that have occurred in the United States and around the world, I want to encourage citizens of Ulster County who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO."

Van Blarcum, a Democrat who's been sheriff for almost nine years, said in a telephone interview with the Freeman that his call to arms is to ensure "that if something happens, there is an armed citizen around."

His post came less than 24 hours after 14 people died in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., less than two weeks after a gunman killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., and about three weeks after shootings by terrorists in Paris left 130 people dead.

"I think it's important to remind everybody with the way things are, you've got people coming in with long rifles just slaughtering people," Van Blarcum said by phone, referring specifically to Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino.

He said in instances like the recent mass shootings, if people aren't armed, they are "useless."

By midafternoon, Van Blarcum's Facebook post had more than 8,700 "likes," had been shared by more than 12,000 people and had drawn more than 1,000 comments, most supporting his position. The post also was drawing attention from some national news outlets.

Van Blarcum said in the phone interview that his post was a "reminder" to residents who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon that they should do so "if they are comfortable and proficient."

"We're reminding them that they have that right and if they're proficient and they're comfortable, to exercise that right," he said.

The sheriff said he didn't see his post as encouraging vigilantism among the county's residents because the people he is appealing to already have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

He said he's "not trying to drum up a militia of any sort."Rather, police are "partners with the public in crime prevention," he said.

Van Blarcum said there are about 10,000 licensed handgun owners in the county.

The sheriff said he was unconcerned about the possibility that urging the county's citizenry to arm itself could result in more gun violence, saying, "The people who are doing the gun violence aren't using registered guns."

In the California case, federal authorities have said the two assault rifles and two handguns used in the violence were bought legally.

Van Blarcum also called on all police and peace officers, active duty and retired, to carry their weapons whenever they leave their homes.

"We are the thin blue line that is entrusted in keeping this country safe, and we must be prepared to act at any given moment," he wrote in his Facebook post.

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, county District Attorney Holley Carnright and Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti did not return a Freeman reporter's calls for comment Thursday.

Van Blarcum joined the Ulster County Sheriff's Office in 1976 and was elected sheriff in November 2006. He took office in January 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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