NY sheriff receives cheers, jeers after urging licensed citizens to carry guns

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A New York county sheriff is receiving both backlash and support after urging licensed gun owners to arm themselves in the wake of recent mass shootings.

Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum wrote a post on the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page that encouraged county citizens to carry a firearm if they are licensed to do so.

“My first reaction was, ‘Well, that might be a good idea,’” Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said.

12-3-15 Ulster Co. Sheriff Letter

Desmond said he supports the message, but after giving it some thought, he realized there could be drawbacks to urging people to arm themselves.

“It could lead to some very serious consequences if you got into an argument with someone or if you used it, and Lord forbid, you’re going to be facing some legal consequences,” he said.

However, Desmond said he understands why people want protection, and he agrees with their right to carry.

Schoharie gun shop owner, Heidi Lawton said she’s not surprised people are scared.

“I think they believe if they do not get their license now, they may not be able to get it in the future, and everything, again, that’s going on in the country, and they need to feel protected,” she said.

But the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said arming yourself out of fear can backfire.

“That gun is 22 times more likely to be used not to protect yourself in a home invasion but against someone in your home,” Patricia Tuz with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said.

And not every public place welcomes guns.

“The malls are not going to be happy if they thought that there’s gonna be 1,000 people running around Christmas shopping all carrying weapons,” Desmond said.

Despite some outcry, the Ulster County sheriff is standing by his message.

“You’re comfortable with your weapon, you’re proficient with your weapon, then I encourage you to carry it,” Van Blarcum said.

The license to carry a firearm varies by county, but it is typically a lengthy process that includes a class, a background check and character references.

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