A New York sheriff is asking residents in his county to carry their legal guns in the wake of a mass shooting in California that has reignited a national conversation about gun control.
"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," Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum wrote on Facebook Thursday. "I urge you to responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm."
The message was posted a day after a husband and wife sprayed bullets into a group of people holding a holiday gathering at a San Bernardino social services center. Fourteen people were killed, and at least 21 people were injured in the bloodshed.
Van Blarcum's Facebook post, which also urged active duty and retired officers to carry guns "whenever you leave your house," had been shared more than 28,000 times by Friday afternoon. The post also drew more than 3,000 comments.
Some posters thanked the sheriff, saying his message would help keep the county safe. Others said more firearms would only lead to more violence.
"There were more positive comments than negative, but the negative ones are very adamant," Van Blarcum told The Associated Press, which reported that the sheriff is a Democrat.
"I'm not trying to drum up a militia of any sort," Van Blarcum said, according to NBC New York. "It's just a reminder that if you want to, you have a right to carry it. It might come in handy. It's better to have it than not have it. We're partners with the public in crime prevention."
About 10,000 people in Ulster County are licensed to carry handguns, Van Blarcum told the AP. That's about 5 percent of the more than 180,000 people who live in the largely rural county located 100 miles north of New York City.
Blarcum's post came as many, including President Barack Obama, were calling for stricter gun control measures following the recent string of high-profile shootings.
"We're going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we take some basic steps that make it harder — not impossible — but harder for individuals to get access to weapons," Obama said Thursday.