West Virginia recently enacted an open carry policy, and as a result, crime rates have dropped 90%.
This summer, social media users have been sharing a meme about West Virginia gun laws. Comparing West Virginia to the Wild West, these posts claim “now that there’s an open carry law” crime rates have dropped by 90%.
Misbar’s investigation found this claim to be false. West Virginia has allowed open carry for decades. The only recent changes to their gun laws were made in 2016: when people over 21 already allowed to legally own a firearm, were also allowed to concealed carry without a permit. “Concealed carry” refers to a person carrying a firearm without it being in direct view, and permitted only with a license in many other states. Open carrying, which was not illegal in West Virginia, is when a firearm owner wears their weapon in plain view.
As for the claims of a 90% drop in crime, this graph shows murder and homicide rates for West Virginia, which shows steady increases and a slight decrease in 2018 violent crime, which witnessed steady growth until 2018. In fact, none of the metrics for West Virginia show any drops in crime even nearing the “90%” figure offered by social media users.
A Department of Justice report from 2016 notes that of inmates in possession of a firearm at the time of their crime, only 7% got the gun legally from a licensed firearm dealer. Gun owners are also far less likely to commit a crime, but there is no link between areas of large gun ownership and less crime.