Columbia, SC (WSPA)– The South Carolina Highway Patrol says it’s trying to better equip troopers to respond to an active shooter situation. The department’s commander wants to put rifles in the hands of troopers.
Mass shootings seem to occur more and more often. So agencies across the country are looking to beef up their response in case it happens in their town. And SCHP is one of those agencies. They’re asking lawmakers to approve more than half-a-million dollars for semi-automatic patrol rifles.
Colonel Chris Williamson said they’re weapons the department has now is outdated. “South Carolina Highway Patrol has been equipped with shotguns for a number of years and many law enforcement agencies are starting to phase them out and purchase rifles. And we need to do the same.”
The rifle will allow troopers to have a sharper aim from a farther distance. The gun can also hold up to 30 rounds at one time. The shotgun, some troopers say is harder to use.
Sgt. Barney Pope trains troopers to use both their primary and backup weapons. He explained some of the disadvantages of the shotgun the department currently uses.
“The shot gun has shorter range and a low ammunition capacity and it has a harder recoil which makes it difficult for some troopers to effectively use,” said Sgt. Pope.
The department says differences like that could mean life or death if violence breaks out.
“We won’t be able to protect ourselves or our citizens if we don’t have the proper equipment. and if you use the shotgun vs the rifle you may take out innocent bystanders who are just there,” said Colonel Williamson. “A shotgun fires multiple projectiles as it goes down the lane and if you think about the type of environments where mass violence or a terror attack occurs, it happens in a generally populated area,” explained Sgt. Pope.
Right now about 200 troopers have rifles, 150 of them are members of an emergency response team. The other 50 troopers purchased their own rifle. One trooper brought his personal rifle while responding to the shooting at Townville Elementary in 2016.
The department is looking to purchase about 600 rifles. They cost bout $800 each. The budget request in in for this upcoming session.
© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.