CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A South Carolina sheriff who called for women to carry guns to defend themselves against assaults said on Tuesday he has received a positive response to his advice.
During a press conference Monday about a rape suspect's arrest, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said women should walk in groups and get a gun.
"I don't want you to go for the Mace. I want you to go for the concealed weapons permit," the sheriff said, according to a video of his remarks.
Wright said women could conceal a small pistol inside a fanny pack when they go out jogging.
"They got one called 'The Judge' that shoots a .45 or a .410 shell," he said. "You ain't gotta be accurate. You just gotta get close."
Wright's comments were prompted by the case of Walter Monroe Lance, 46, who was arrested in a park Sunday and charged with kidnapping, rape and grand larceny. The suspect has a long record of arrests.
Wright said he knew he would "get all lit up" by anti-gun activists for his remarks, but he was frustrated that Lance kept getting out of jail.
"I really think that would send a message to some of these people that can't control themselves that you better be really cautious who you mess with because they might be armed," Wright told Reuters on Tuesday.
"Just presenting a weapon could have prevented this whole thing from happening."
It is legal in South Carolina to carry a concealed weapon following training and certification. Since his remarks, Wright said, people have told him, "Thank you for saying what I've been thinking."
But not everyone agreed with the sheriff's advice.
"He's blaming the victim," said Melonea Marek, executive director of People Against Rape, a nonprofit rape crisis center in North Charleston. "There's not a guarantee that a gun was going to stop that guy from hurting her."
Caroline Brewer, spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation's largest gun control advocacy group, said a 2009 study found that people who carry guns are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than people who don't.
"We share the sheriff's concerns about protecting women from dangerous men, but what we know for sure is that when people carry guns, they greatly increase their risk of being shot," Brewer told Reuters.
"To encourage a woman to carry a gun is to encourage her to put herself at much greater risk of being shot and killed, and we would not recommend it."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)