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Wisconsin sheriff's warning: Arm yourself, we might not get there in time

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The comments have resonance beyond Wisconsin. In all, 48 states have either a castle doctrine law or its variant – a "stand your ground" law that allows the use of deadly force outside one’s private property if a person feels threatened and cannot retreat – according to a 2012 study by Texas A&M University. Moreover, in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Clarke's comments play into the national conversation about how involved a community should be in arming and protecting itself.

Clarke first agreed to talk to the Monitor for this story Monday but subsequently declined, citing a busy schedule.

Clarke defended the spot Monday morning, telling Fox News that “personal safety is a personal responsibility.… The police are not omnipresent. We can't be there all the time and sometimes we can't be there as fast as we'd like.”

Many law-enforcement experts suggest that studies show smarter police strategies and technology are more effective in reducing crime than more cops on the street. A better way of soliciting the help of the public might be to encourage residents “to be the eyes and the ears of the police” so law enforcement can help determine where to place their resources, says Tod Burke, a former police officer in Maryland who now teaches criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia.

He says Clarke’s campaign “could be a political ploy to make the statement he wants more police officers. I think arming citizens could possibly become a problem for police.”

Clarke has pushed for harsher sentencing guidelines and fewer restrictions on gun ownership since first being elected Milwaukee County sheriff in 2002. Last month, he called for the arming of teachers in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. He is current serving his third term.

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