Ulster County Sheriff Reacts to Gun Post Controversy
Ulster County Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum's Facebook call for licensed gun owners to carry their weapons generated national controversy Thursday. However, the sheriff told WRRV sister station WPDH Friday morning that he stands behind his statements.
"I really am encouraging people that are responsible and are proficient and are comfortable -- you know, private citizens -- if you went out of your way to get yourself a pistol permit, carry that," Van Blarcum said.
The sheriff's Facebook post urged Ulster County residents to "responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm" in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino.
Van Blarcum also encouraged active duty and retired officers to carry their weapons on them when they are off-duty.
"We had a shooting in the mall here back in the '90s. There were six police officers in there off-duty at the time, none of which had a gun," Van Blarcum said.
Morning show co-host Robyn Taylor asked Van Blarcum what scenarios would necessitate a licensed armed citizen to use a weapon.
"Do you think that somebody who is licensed to carry a gun, who knows how to use it, who is comfortable with it, if they walk into -- for instance -- a 7Eleven and they see an armed robbery, should they be taking out their gun? Or is that not the kind of situation you're talking about?" Taylor asked.
Van Blarcum said he would advise a licensed gun owner to use a weapon in the scenario Taylor described, but they should be proficient with their weapon and familiar with New York firearms laws before doing so.
"If a licensed firearm person is walking into a 7Eleven and there's an armed robbery going down, yes I would encourage them to use it. But, again, they have to know they would be held accountable," Van Blarcum said.
Morning show co-host Andrew Boris noted that Ulster County is tied for the New York county with the highest percentage of admitted binge drinkers, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Additionally, Ulster County had the highest number of DWI arrests in the state in 2014.
"The population of Ulster County unfortunately out of the whole state of New York has the highest amount of alcohol abuse. It's like one in four citizens, according to some statistics from the state and the Center for Disease Control, abuse alcohol regularly. It's the highest rate of DWIS in Ulster County," Boris said. "Are you afraid that maybe by urging even licensed hand gun owners to be bringing these guns out in situations where they wouldn't before -- like all the time -- are you afraid that this now might cause some problems?"
Van Blarcum said Ulster County Sheriff's Office deputies rarely turn up a legal firearm.
"I'm not worried about that and I highlighted responsibly take advantage of your right to carry a firearm," Van Blarcum said.
The sheriff noted that responses from law enforcement and the general public to his statement have been largely positive, and he respects the opinions of those who disagreed with his statement.
"So far the responses from law enforcement have been positive. I'm sure somewhere along the line there will be negative responses, which is fine by me," Van Blarcum said. This is just my opinion and I respect everybody else's opinion."