MILWAUKEE -

A sheriff who released a radio ad urging Milwaukee-area residents to learn to handle firearms so they can defend themselves says he's using taxpayer funds to air them.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the ads that first aired last month are public safety announcements.

Clarke's department has an $84.9 million budget for 2013, with 85 percent coming from county property taxes. Most of the rest comes from state and federal funds.

The exact amount being spent on the ads couldn't be determined from invoices and other department records reviewed by the newspaper.

But Clarke's office has agreed to buy more than $17,000 in radio ads this year, including the gun-themed ads. Last year, the department spent nearly $26,000 last year on safety ads.