Would more people with guns make Americans safer?

After San Bernardino shooting, sheriff wants ... 02:00

ULSTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The mass shooting in San Bernardino has generated many opinions about how to make us all safer.

A sheriff in upstate New York is asking those he's sworn to protect to help him out -- by arming themselves.

The images of mass shootings are relentless -- nearly every week, another release of 9-1-1 calls, another new vigil honoring those lost.

All of it makes people just want to do something. But what?

Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Barclun knew he had to act.

"It just sort of all built up not being able to do anything," Van Barclum told CBS News. "Thought I'd remind our people that went through the process it's not a Second Amendment issue -- these people are already permitted to carry guns."

In a Facebook post that quickly went viral, the sheriff wrote: "I urge you to responsibly take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm.... We must be prepared to act at any given moment."

December 3, 2015ATTENTION LICENSED HANDGUN OWNERSIn light of recent events that have occurred in the United States...

Posted by Ulster County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, December 3, 2015

But how can a handgun compete with a shooter armed with an assault-style weapon?

"It's better than nothing," Van Barclum said. "I would never want to see people walking around with long guns. At least it's something to throw back to the person who's going to take your life."

How the AR-15 went from military weapon to ci... 02:36

The sheriff has been inundated with phone calls and emails after his post, some from as far away as Alaska. He says most of them are supportive.

But not all law enforcement agrees.

"Good luck to him," New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. "I am not supportive of that at all."

Ulster County is two hours north of New York City. With a population of nearly 200,000, it's estimated 10,000 people have gun permits.

Residents Walter Baschnagel and his son Jordan picked up forms to file for a gun permit Saturday.

"In light of everything going on, as the sheriff indicated, we should do our duty and carry if we have a permit," Baschnagel said.

Some critics claim the sheriff's post was politically motivated, but he disputes that, saying he's not up for reelection for another three years.