The proclamations come after suicide bombers and gunmen terrorized Paris, a gunman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and two attackers – since linked to Islamic extremism – gunned down a crowd at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey addressed citizens from Florida last month to ask them for help.
“If a terrorist attack or active-shooter scenario can happen in California, Texas, South Carolina or Paris, it can happen right here in our own backyard,” he said in a video titled “Enough is Enough.” “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If you’re a person who is legally licensed to carry a firearm, now is the time, more than ever, to realize that you – and you alone – may very well be the first line of defense for you, your family and others around you in a terrorist or active shooter-based scenario.
“I have always had absolute faith in our citizens to partner with us to help protect our community.”
Gun-rights groups say the recent terrorist attacks have led to a change in many people’s perspectives about guns, according to Fox News. Indeed, research shows fear of terrorism has hit its highest point in 10 years – and many, it seems, are looking for ways to protect themselves and their families from harm.
The number of concealed handgun permits has increased over the past decade, from 4.6 million in 2007 to more than 12.8 million in 2015, according to a recent report from the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation and senior editor for its publication, the Gun Mag, said sheriffs are elected officials who are “going to do what’s best for their constituents.”
“It’s kind of an honest way to approach things – you can’t have deputies everywhere at once,” he said about their recent calls to arms. “Sheriff’s departments can’t field as many deputies as they’d like to. … For sheriffs to make that suggestion, I think, it points to the fact that we’re responsible for our own safety.”
Also in Florida, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair said citizens who are licensed should start carrying.
“A lot can happen in the minutes it may take for us to respond to those in need,” he said last month in a video, “and to have someone there to bring the fight to the attacker will help save lives.”
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told Fox News he wants as many law-abiding citizens to arm themselves as possible so “I have the partner that I need to beat back this sort of violence.”
In addition, Ulster County Sheriff Paul Blarcum in New York made a public proclamation: If citizens can legally carry a gun, then they should. “I urge you to responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm,” Blarcum said a statement. He also urged both active-duty and retired police officers “to please carry a weapon whenever you leave your house.”
But the Second Amendment Foundation’s Workman said it’s “far more likely that some private citizen is going to find himself in middle of armed robbery or home invasion,” rather than a terrorist attack.
Indeed, some law enforcement officials have noted that – and warned would-be criminals to stand down.
“If you are foolish enough to break into someone’s home, you can expect to be shot in Polk County,” Sheriff Grady Judde said after a homeowner shot a home invader earlier this month.
Still, anti-guns groups warn that having a firearm in the home can be dangerous.
“Removing all of the ideological issues, it’s just bad advice,” Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said of the spate of public proclamations. “It’s asking people to incur risk. To us, it reflects this reckless view of firearms that’s common in this pro-gun movement today.”
Indeed, even those who encouraged citizens to act said firearms may not be the answer for everyone.
Ivey, the Brevard County sheriff, told citizens that his message was not meant to encourage them to “take on a vigilante role.”
“What I am saying is that we need to be mentally and physically prepared to respond to an attack so we can effectively defend and protect ourselves in an emergency,” he said in his video address.
Asked about his proclamations, he told Florida Today earlier this month some people should not be armed.
“I got an email the other day from someone who said they went to visit somebody over the holidays, she was an 80-year-old lady,” Ivey told the newspaper. “She had a gun that she had gotten for Christmas.
“When someone asked her what she was doing with a gun she said, ‘Sheriff Ivey said I should have a gun.’ I’ve got to be honest with you: Not everybody should have a gun. But everybody better have a plan.”