Ulster County Sheriff Discusses Facebook Post Urging Residents To Carry Guns

Dec 3, 2015

Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum
Credit Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum

One day after gunmen killed 14 and injured 17 more in Southern California, Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum is getting a lot of attention, both supportive and critical, for a Facebook post today urging residents "who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO." Van Blarcum discussed the post and the department's preparations following mass shootings with WAMC's Ian Pickus this afternoon.

Here is the full Facebook post:

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.

I urge you to responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm. To ensure the safety of yourself and others, make sure you are comfortable and proficient with your weapon, and knowledgeable of the laws in New York State with regards to carrying a weapon and when it is legal to use it.

I also want to remind all Police/Peace Officers both active duty and retired to please carry a weapon whenever you leave your house. 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.

"Well, it's really self-explanatory; it goes into what's obviously happened in California, but what's happened in the United States and across the world. And I for one would encourage anybody who is licensed, and who is proficient, and who is responsible, and is comfortable doing that to carry a weapon. You know, when stuff hits the fan it'd be nice to know that there's somebody there that's going to stand up."

Do you have any indication of how many people in Ulster County might meet those qualifications?

"There are thousands that have pistol permits, and it's a personal choice. I'm not telling you that you have to carry it, but if you're willing to and you're capable and you're knowledgeable of the laws of the state of New York and you're willing to do that, then I encourage you to carry it, especially police officers active duty and retired."

Are you concerned that it would complicate your job in law enforcement to have other people carrying weapons and potentially using them if a situation does happen?

"No. I'm not."

Were you at all worried about possible blowback from the Facebook post some people probably won't agree with?

"That's the great thing about living in the United States. I can live with that. If you don't agree with me that's fine. But as the head of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office and an elected official in Ulster County I think it's important that I get my opinion out there."

Just in general, are there trainings that your department undergoes to deal with mass shootings like that kind we've seen, unfortunately, in the past week?

"Yes. all police officers in New York state and throughout the United States are now trained in active shooter scenarios."

And have there been any additional steps taken in recent days just with the heightened alert? 

"You know, we always don't like to give out information about our tactical responses. We tell people there is a heightened alert, but we don't give out information as to where we are sending more patrols."