Story updated at 5:45 p.m. with comments from Hamilton County Sheriff's office. Updated at 11:55 p.m. for minor edits.
Sheriff Jimmy Harris urges citizens to protect themselvesView
The world is in a state of disarray and the United States is going down fast, said Jimmy Harris, sheriff of DeKalb County, Ala., in a letter urging citizens to do more to protect themselves.
Harris released a statement Tuesday in which he expressed concern about the variety of threats faced by U.S. citizens, especially the growing worries surrounding so-called "lone wolf" attacks like last week's shootings in Chattanooga.
The news release was billed as a change in gun policy at the sheriff's office because of the Chattanooga attack. Harris' office did not respond to questions about how the policy has changed.
"When people can walk into schools, movie theaters, recruiting stations, etc., and pull out a gun, it's time for all of us law-abiding citizens to take a look at how we protect ourselves, family and friends," Harris wrote. "I ask you to put your faith in God, and as a lifetime NRA member, it is time you learn to protect yourself by learning the proper and safe ways to handle a weapon."
Harris specifically criticized laws that do not allow service members to wear weapons at military installations, "leaving them wide open and unable to protect themselves."
And he suggested that citizens who were not prepared to protect themselves "get self-defense training or firearms training." Modern terrorism may not resemble Sept. 11-style coordinated attacks, he said.
"You do not have to be a member of ISIS to belong to their terrorist organization," Harris said. "You just have to believe the way they do and carry out deadly attacks against U.S. citizens. This doesn't make them a lone wolf, it makes them a pack of wolves."
But Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond isn't urging citizens to arm themselves, said Chief Deputy Allen Branum.
"We strongly support people's right to go armed, but as far as any change in our policy, I don't anticipate one," Branum said.
Branum said Hammond has received many inquiries from citizens seeking gun permits and have directed those inquiries to local sporting clubs and shooting goods stores.
But he cautioned that part of owning a weapon is learning how to control it.
"I suggest that people make themselves familiar with the operation of the weapon," he said.
"We've all heard these stories where a child gets shot, or in the middle of the night they forget somebody is in the next room, and that's the thing to be concerned about."
Read more about the attacks on Chattanooga military facilities