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

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“It’s highly irregular. Most law enforcement professionals will not encourage people to pick up their guns and engage in vigilante justice," says Randolph McLaughlin, a civil rights attorney in Manhattan and a professor at Pace University Law School. "What [Clarke] is saying is that ‘we in law enforcement are unable to protect you, so do what you need to do.’ It’s an extremely dangerous proposition to encourage citizens who have no law-enforcement training to use their weapons.”

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.”

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