Sheriff Chris Blair of Marion County spoke to a meeting of the Villages Conservative Action Group Thursday evening at Savannah Center. He outlined a number of programs that his administration has implemented to serve the citizens of Marion County. The programs include the creation of informational kiosks on wanted persons and crime prevention tips, the use of Facebook and social media to solve crimes, and the creation of concealed carry classes run by the sheriff’s department.
Blair, a 38-year veteran of police work, was elected sheriff three years ago. Since becoming sheriff, he indicated that crime has dropped 10 percent in Marion County. When he became sheriff,the Marion County sheriff’s Facebook page had 1,700 likes. More than 51,000 people have liked the Facebook page as of this year. When a crime occurs, or a senior with Alzheimer’s or a child is lost, his office will immediately make a posting to its Facebook page. He is also instituted the use of an electronic newsletter to get information to citizens regarding pending cases.
The audience came alive as the sheriff began to talk about the concealed carry permit and the classes which his office has been providing. Blair is a strong proponent for the concealed carry permit and the Second Amendment. He encouraged the audience to exercise their Second Amendment rights and get a concealed carry permit. He then asked the audience for a show of hands if they already had a concealed carry permit. Half of the audience, raised their hands. The sheriff encouraged those individuals who do not have a concealed carry permit to take the classes and get their permit.
Blair’s department holds classes on a monthly basis and charges $75 for the class, which includes food. Approximately 100 people per month take the class and it is booked up through August. The sheriff indicated that all of the funds which are raised are then donated to charity. He said that approximately one half of the class consists of women. He noted that approximately 23 percent of the concealed carry permits issued in the state of Florida have gone to women. He even indicated his wife has a concealed carry permit.
“I want you to carry because we cannot be everywhere,”he said. Blair feels so strongly about the Second Amendment that he even made a video which went viral.
The sheriff went on to talk about a program he has instituted in the jail where by inmates will train dogs obtained from the Humane Society so that they may be adopted by the public. This benefits the inmates as they learn responsibility and the dogs get a home.
The audience asked a number of questions,one of which had to do with video cameras on the officers. The sheriff said they had a pilot program where they used 30 body cameras, but each camera cost about $1,000. To institute the program would cost approximately $250,000 and would require substantially more personnel to monitor and catalog the videos. He indicated that the department does not have the resources to implement the program department wide.
Some of the questions asked by the audience had to do with the federal government controlling firearms. One audience member asked the sheriff if he would keep the FBI out of the county if they tried to interfere with the Second Amendment. Sheriff Blair said he would not honor any executive order to seize fire arms and left no doubt that he believes in an armed citizenry.