Ulster County Sheriff Urges Handgun Owners to Carry Firearms in Wake of California Shooting

A Facebook post by Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum in the wake of the San Bernardino mass shooting brings the controversial gun control debate to the Valley — and ignites a social media firestorm

On Thursday, December 3, 2015, in what many consider a bold move, Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum urged Ulster County residents with legal gun licenses to carry their weapons. The announcement, which was delivered in the form of a Facebook post to fans of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department — and was republished on the department’s Web site — advises law enforcement officers, both active duty and retired, and those with the legal capability to carry firearms to “be prepared to act at any given moment” in the defense of the United States.

Van Blarcum’s post references recent acts of violence that have sparked discussion about gun control reform: “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.” A screenshot of the full post appears below:

ulster county sheriff facebook post
The announcement, which was posted on December 3, 2015 at 11:14 a.m. and reposted 40 minutes later, received an astounding 15,000 likes, 20,000 shares, and 2,000 comments in just seven hours, igniting heated discussions between locals on all sides of the gun control debate.

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The announcement came just one day after a mass shooting during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center, an agency that serves those with developmental disabilities, in San Bernardino, California rocked the nation. At least 14 people were killed and 21 were wounded in the attack; the two confirmed suspects were killed by police shortly after.

Earlier that same day, in Savannah, Georgia, a gunman killed a woman and injured three men in a mass shooting.

On November 27, three people — an Iraq War veteran, an on-duty police officer, and a mother of two — were killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The alleged gunman, 57-year-old Robert Dear, may face charges of first-degree murder. His next hearing is December 9.

On November 13, terrorist attacks involving mass shootings and coordinated bombings in Paris and Saint-Denis, France, resulted in 130 deaths and 368 injuries.

Van Blarcum, who has held the position of Ulster County Sheriff since 2006, reminded both the public and police/peace officers to “…responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm.” He emphasized that citizens with gun licenses should comply with all the New York State permit laws, and to ensure their personal competency and ability to responsibly handle firearms. In response, a number of critics expressed concern with everything from the post’s legitimacy to implications of vigilantism, while others praised the Sheriff’s Department for upholding the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees citizens their right to keep and bear arms.

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As of press time, a request for comments had not been answered.

Visit the Ulster County Sheriff’s office at www.ulstercountyny.gov/sheriff.

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