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Data is clear: Permitless carry keeps us safe

Like many South Carolinians, I was reminded of the importance of our Second Amendment rights when COVID-19 hit our shores. This worldwide crisis exposed the fragility of liberty and our personal safety.

In fact, those threats to our freedom and well-being inspired me to stand up and advocate for the Second Amendment as Women for Gun Rights’ South Carolina state director — a nonpartisan group of daughters, mothers and sisters who believe gun rights are human rights. Our efforts over the past few years are reaping tremendous results. When Gov. Henry McMaster signed the landmark permitless carry law earlier this year, making South Carolina the 29th state to adopt permitless carry (better known as constitutional carry) legislation, I joined tens of thousands across the state in celebrating that historic moment.

We should all be grateful for this new law, which ensures qualified, law-abiding citizens can carry a firearm without a permit. The law enhances our safety, safeguards our rights, and removes costly administrative barriers from our citizens. Yet, three months after the law took effect, detractors continue to push a false narrative about constitutional carry having a negative impact on crime and public safety.

Well, to quote President Ronald Reagan, “facts are stubborn things.”

A new study released in May 2024 by independent researchers, Colorado State University professor Youngsung Kim and K. Alexander Adams from the University of Wyoming, looked at crime statistics from all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 1980 and 2018. More than 30 variables were considered in the study, including population density, poverty rates, alcohol consumption and other gun-control measures. Their findings were clear: “Constitutional Carry does not lead to large-scale changes in homicides or firearm suicides. The doomsday scenarios of constitutional-carry opponents are not supported by social science.”

But that isn’t what anti-gun activists told us would happen. They hinge their entire argument on the relationship between homicide rates and constitutional carry laws is inextricably linked. Thankfully, the truth always rises to the top. The research shows that constitutional carry laws were associated with 6% lower homicide rates.

There are other studies that confirm those results, too. For example, research published by the Center for Justice Research, an independent criminal justice research center, found the largely beneficial impact of permitless carry on crime and violence in Ohio. It noted a decrease in gun-related crime following the state’s adoption of such laws.

As more states, like our northern neighbors, consider permitless carry, these policy debates should be based on sound research and not emotional conjecture. South Carolina’s adoption of this law is a triumph for freedom and an example worthy of imitation. It emphasizes the significance of safeguarding our constitutional rights while keeping our families safe.

Ashley Widener of Anderson is the state director of Women for Gun Rights in South Carolina. 

This Op-Ed was featured in The Post and Courier.

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