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In Wake of San Bernardino, Sheriffs Urge Residents to Carry Guns

Several sheriffs are urging Americans to take the fight against terrorism into their own hands in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

Sheriffs in New York, Florida and Kentucky are joining a growing chorus asking Americans who are licensed to carry guns to do so. Ulster County, New York, Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum issued a statement urging New Yorkers to carry firearms just one day after Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook carried out their attack, which killed 14 people last week.

Sheriff’s call to arms polarizes many 2:30

"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 wrote on the sheriff's Facebook page. "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."

Van Blarcum's post has drawn widespread attention, having been shared more than 33,000 times and having garnered almost 4,000 comments. He's also inspired other sheriffs to make similar calls to action.

Sheriff Michael Helmig wrote in an open letter to residents of Boone County in northern Kentucky that it's their "responsibility" to protect the country from domestic terrorism.

"I have reminded my current and retired Deputy Sheriffs of their responsibility to carry their firearms while off-duty," Helmig said. "I would also like to remind the people who have applied, been trained, and issued a license to carry a Concealed Deadly Weapon (CCDW) that they also have a responsibility to carry their firearm, which they are proficient with, for the safety of themselves and others."

Brevard County, Florida, Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a video message that citizens carrying guns could be the first line of defense in active-shooter situations.

Florida Sheriff Calls for Owners to Carry Guns in Wake of San Bernardino 1:19

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," Ivey said in the video.

Ivey said he is not promoting vigilantism but instead wants people to train themselves so they can fend off an active shooter "until the cavalry can arrive."

However, not all county officials believe more guns is the answer to preventing future attacks. Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright said he is "not convinced" armed residents are the solution.

"Though I fully support our right to bear arms and to defend ourselves I am not convinced more guns in the hands of untrained or unskilled civilians is the answer and nor do I believe does the Sheriff," he wrote. "I think it is better to prevent than to respond. Our best course is, if you see something, say something."

But in an open letter to police chiefs nationwide, the country's most famous tough-guy sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, urged chiefs to reach out to holders of legal firearms and "let them know it is OK" to use them in a "mass shooting scenario" until officers can arrive.

"Now it's the police chiefs' turn," Arpaio wrote Tuesday. "I want the chiefs to take a stand for what is right."

The National Sheriffs's Association has not taken a position on urging citizens who are licensed to carry firearms to do so, said Patrick Royal, a spokesman.

"Every sheriff is responsible to their local electorate," he told NBC News. "Each takes actions to suit their communities' needs."