This is to correct and clarify certain statements attributed to me by certain media outlets in regard to our budget cuts and the need for protection in rural areas.

In an interview with a newspaper reporter, I was asked if people will be 'unprotected' without enough deputies to patrol Columbia County.

My response is that there are never enough deputies to 'protect' citizens across the 657 square miles of our county, but that if we had more deputies we might be able to better deter crime in those areas.

I was asked how a person could deter crime in the absence of more patrols. My response was that people should invest in home security items, make sure they know the serial numbers of the valuables and, if someone was threatening their lives, a shotgun loaded with .00-buckshot is a good deterrent.

I also said that in the rural areas of Columbia County, guns are a way of life, and that most people know how to defend themselves from those who would threaten them.

Later, when asked for clarification by a television reporter, I told him that I was in no way advocating citizens taking up guns and trying to enforce the law themselves. And that if a citizen was seeking to arm him or herself as a means of self-defense, that they should be trained in the proper use of the gun.

This is merely following the advice of state law when it comes to getting a concealed weapons permit. This is common sense, too.

I am a supporter of the 2nd amendment in the Bill of Rights, and believe that an armed citizenry is better-prepared to face those who threaten the life-safety of people than a disarmed one would be.

As sheriff, it is my duty both to enforce the law and to work with the law-abiding citizens of our county to conserve the peace and ensure tranquil communities.

Unfortunately, there are threats to that peace in this county and our deputies cannot be everywhere at once.

A citizen who wishes to be armed for protection is granted that right by our Constitution, unless his or her behavior has led to a forfeiture of that right.

One final thought: No person - whether police officer or citizen - is justified in using deadly physical force unless the use of that force is justified by a reasonable belief that the use of that force is necessary to defend that person or another from what that person reasonably believes to be the infliction, or threatened infliction, of serious physical injury.

People who violate this standard can and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law possible.

- Jeff Dickerson, Columbia County Sheriff

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