We’ve seen no shortage of politicians and police chiefs complaining that Texas’ new Constitutional Carry law is going to lead to an increase in violent crime, though I have to admit that their arguments don’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The vast majority of crimes in which a gun is used already involve individuals who aren’t legally allowed to own one, so the fact that legal gun owners can now carry in Texas without the need for a government-issued license doesn’t equate to more violence overall.
In fact, a new report out of West Virginia shows that five years after Constitutional Carry took effect in the Mountaineer State, violent crime didn’t increase. Instead, it dropped substantially.
The FBI Crime Data Explorer showed the rate of violent crime offenses by population in West Virginia at 362.7 per 100,000 in 2016, the year the law passed. That number had risen from 347.5 in 2015, 316.4 in 2014, and 305.2 in 2013. After that, the violent crime rate in the Mountain State has been mostly downhill: 361.2 in 2017; 299.9 in 2018; and 316.6 in 2019. One provision: The FBI doesn’t receive reports from all of the state’s approximately 435 law enforcement agencies.
The number of violent crime offenses involving handguns did increase briefly in the wake of the new law: From 529 in 2015 to 706 in 2016 and 644 in 2017. But after that, in 2018 (458) and 2019 (358) the handgun total was more closely aligned to what it had been leading up to the passage of the law.
While the West Virginia News says that violent crime involving handguns rose after Constitutional Carry became the law, that’s not what the data indicates. The 644 offenses reported in 2017 is less than the 706 reported in 2016, when the law took effect, and since then the number of crimes has only declined. In fact, most of the local law enforcement that the West Virginia News spoke with say they haven’t seen any ill effects from Constitutional Carry’s implementation at all.
Harrison Sheriff Robert Matheny and Bridgeport Police Chief John Walker worked together first at the Clarksburg Police Department. Matheny also had a stint as Wheeling police chief. Neither had much to report as far as the prior concerns of a wave of possible violence.
“Actually, it’s been all right,” Matheny said. “There were some concerns in the beginning — you know, change sometimes is the unknown. As far as locally, we’ve not seen a lot of problems with it, which is a good thing for law enforcement.”
Added Walker: “Up to this point, we’ve not had any issues with it. We have come across folks that were carrying weapons, and generally they’ll tell us in advance … to make sure everyone’s safe and reacts appropriately. But, it’s not been an issue for us.”
… Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard said West Virginia’s shift to a constitutional carry state “really hasn’t had any major effects on the crime rate up here.”
His explanation seems like it might fit for much of the rest of the state, as well: “We had a lot of concealed carry in Ohio County anyway.”
I’d suggest that the anti-gun politicians and the politically-appointed police chiefs in Texas confer with their colleagues in West Virginia before they continue trying to scare the public about the state’s new permitless carry law. There’s five years worth of data to look at it, and the results are clear. Not only does West Virginia still have a violent crime rate that’s lower than the United States overall, but the state’s become a safer place since Constitutional Carry took effect.
Of course we know that gun control activists aren’t going to call up the sheriff in Ohio County to find out what he thinks. Fear trumps facts as far as the gun control lobby is concerned, and they have a vested interest in keeping Texans terrified of the potential consequences of Constitutional Carry. If we want non-gun owners to be armed with knowledge instead of ignorance, we’re going to have to be the ones educating them.