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Story highlights

After terror attacks, Brevard County sheriff and others ask citizens to arm themselves

Controversial Arizona sheriff says effort is "to stop the carnage, stop the killing before cops arrive"

Mother of two teens saw sheriff's video and got ball rolling to buy gun -- to protect, empower herself

Melbourne, Florida CNN —  

In less than a month, three cities have become synonymous with terror:

Paris. Colorado Springs. San Bernardino.

That last one was enough to spark a trend of sheriffs around the country calling on citizens to arm themselves.

In Brevard County, Florida – less than an hour’s drive from Disney World – Sheriff Wayne Ivey was one of the first to post a video on Facebook. In it, his message was clear: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

Though he repeatedly cautioned against vigilante justice, Ivey made sure gun owners knew he wanted them to “proactively engage anyone who threatens harm through terrorism or mass killings.”

Ivey is confident that responsible gun owners with concealed weapons permits will partner with them in stopping an active shooter before police arrive on the scene, he told CNN.

“We want you to be prepared to defend yourself, to protect you and your family,” he said.

More sheriffs spread the message

Ivey’s video has been viewed by more than 4 million people – among them, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair, whose jurisdiction is about 100 miles northwest of Ivey’s. He, too, decided to post an online video with a similar message: “If you are certified to carry a gun, I would like to encourage you to do so.”

In Arizona, the controversial top cop of Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was even more direct.

“My goal of utilizing 250,000 citizens with concealed weapons is to stop the carnage, stop the killing before cops arrive,” he said.

Two sheriffs from neighboring counties in New York, not far from the Big Apple, echoed those sentiments with statements posted on social media.

“The police cannot be everywhere. The Second Amendment and the laws of New York state give citizens the tools to defend themselves and their families from harm until law enforcement can arrive on the scene,” wrote one of the sheriffs, Michael Schiff of Sullivan County.

University president urges students to be armed

Sharp increases in firearms sales

The messages are being heard loud and clear by gun owners and non-owners alike.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports 25,437 background checks for firearms purchases were performed in just the first six days of December. At that pace, the number of gun purchases in the state would far surpass last December’s total of nearly 91,000.

“Saturday’s call volume was up 73% over the same time last year; and on Sunday, we were up 88%,” FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said in an email.

Michele Powell, a single mother of two teenagers, is a Brevard County resident who saw Ivey’s message and now wants to buy a gun.

“It made it feel like a smart move. It made it feel like a proactive move, rather than an aggressive move. It’s not coming from aggression at all. It’s coming from a personal desire to protect my family,” she said.

The recent terrorist attacks, as well as a desire to feel empowered, spurred her to visit a local gun shop and start the process of purchasing a handgun, Powell said.

“I’d rather have the ability to do something, if faced with that horrible situation, than to simply duck,” she said.

For those like Powell, who have never fired a gun, Ivey says the key is training. His department offers a monthly self-defense training course, that he helps teach.

Since his video posted Sunday, the sheriff’s department has received calls from more than 300 people looking to sign up, Ivey said. The influx has forced the department to add extra classes early next year.

“If you’re going to purchase a firearm, or if you have a firearm and your plan if you’re attacked is to use that, then we want you to go take training,” Ivey said.

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