Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum, a Democrat, posted a message to the department's Facebook page less than 24 hours after 14 people were shot dead in San Bernardino, California.
The post quickly drew hundreds of comments, for and against it.
Here is the post:
Van Blarcum tells The Associated Press he's "not trying to drum up a militia of any sort." But he said police are "partners with the public in crime prevention."
"I don't think we're going to have 10,000 people decide that they want to carry a handgun at any given time. But I know that if 'you know what' hits the fan, our deputies would be glad to have a citizen come to their aid," Van Blarcum said.
Van Blarcum says the largely rural county in the Catskill Mountains has 10,000 licensed handgun owners.
Here's an interview with the sheriff:
What do you think about the the sheriff's message? Chime in via the comment section below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.