Following Wednesday’s deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Democratic Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum asked licensed gun owners in his upstate N.Y. county to begin carrying their weapons in a post on Thursday on the Facebook page of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office.

In the widely seen viral post, which stimulated a robust debate in its comments section, Sheriff Van Blarcum wrote, “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.

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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,” he added.

Van Blarcum told The Associated Press that he is “not trying to drum up a militia of any sort” but that his deputies are “partners with the public in crime prevention” and noted that around 10,000 licensed handgun owners live in his county.

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I also want to remind all Police/Peace Officers both active duty and retired to please carry a weapon whenever you leave your house. We are the thin blue line that is entrusted in keeping this country safe, and we must be prepared to act at any given moment,” wrote Van Blarcum in his controversial Facebook post.

A commenter criticized the post, saying, “I am confused as to why the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, whose job it is to protect people, would encouraging [sic] citizens to take up arms for their own safety.

Another Facebook commenter replied, “Maybe because they can’t be everywhere at once. It is our right to carry and protect ourselves when needed.

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