Women respond to SC sheriff urging them to have a gun

BELMONT, NC (WBTV) - Comments by the Spartanburg County sheriff urging women to get a concealed weapons permit have made headlines nationwide.

The comments have become very controversial, but WBTV discovered there are plenty of women that think the sheriff has the right idea.

"It doesn't offend me at all," said Amanda Cherry while visiting the Shooters Express firing range in Belmont Wednesday.  "I feel like he's right."

Spartanburg County sheriff Chuck Wright made the comments during a press conference about a rape suspect who had been in and out of jail over 20 times.

"Ladies, walk in groups," the sheriff was quoted as saying.  "Get a concealed weapons permit. I don't want you to go for the mace, I want you to go for the concealed weapons permit."

Wright has expressed frustration with the justice system and says guns can be a good way for a woman to keep from being a victim at the hands of a repeat criminal.

"I agree with his comment," said a woman at Shooter's Express who asked us to call her Noel.  "I absolutely think everyone should arm themselves, especially women."

But some don't think the sheriff is on the right track.

"It feels like vigilante justice," said Lynn Hawkins with the Safe Homes Rape Crisis Coalition in Spartanburg.  "I think people need to be encouraged to find other ways to protect themselves...I think education and prevention is what we need to be focused on."

Employees at Shooters Express say guns have exploded in popularity with women in recent years, and they now even have a "ladies night" in which women get discounts at the firing range.

Noel says she believes if more women -- and men -- owned guns, it would make the world safer because criminals would think twice before attacking someone.

"The more guns, and the more responsible users that we have -- the more educated users -- the safer it's going to be," she said.