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What penalties do students face for bringing weapons to school in SC?

There have been nearly 10 reports of Midlands students bringing weapons to school since August.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Since August, there have been nearly 10 reported cases of students bringing weapons to school in the Midlands. 

In South Carolina, it is unlawful for students to have a gun at school.

According to the South Carolina Statute, "It is unlawful for a person to possess a firearm of any kind on any premises or property owned, operated, or controlled by a private or public school, college, university, technical college, other post-secondary institution, or in any publicly owned building, without the express permission of the authorities in charge of the premises or property."

RELATED: Richland County high school student brings loaded, stolen gun to school

What penalties do these students face?

Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster says charges depend on the jurisdiction. 

"You can face a number of criminal charges for that," Foster said. "If they use the weapon, it’s certainly more severe than it would be if you just happen to have it in a book bag, or brought it with you in a book bag."

Foster says parents could also be charged for their child's action, depending on whether they provided the weapon or access to it. 

"Certainly they can be charged with something that related to accessories to the crime," Foster said. 

RELATED: 14-year-old student charged with threatening schools in Lexington County

Parents could also be charged with negligence if they had not secured their weapons from kids, depending on the situation. 

According to a report from the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, there has not been a significant change in the number of threats within the last four years. 

"There have been 190 total incidents involving weapons brought to school addresses within our jurisdiction between Jan. 1, 2017 – Nov. 30, 2021."

RELATED: Fight over $20 ends with knife, larceny arrests at Lexington County middle school

Here's a look at the numbers Lexington County provided by year and weapon type: 

2021: 43 Incidents

  • 4 Handguns
  • 1 BB Gun
  • 1 Stun Gun
  • 27 Knives
  • 1 Multi-Tool with Knives
  • 3 Pepper Sprays
  • 1 Metal Scissor (Used as weapon)
  • 1 Defense Stick
  • 1 Metal Sharp-Edged Ninja Star
  • 1 Hand-made Medieval Mace

Reported cases in 2020 were affected due to schools going virtual for COVID-19.

2020: 18 Incidents 

  • 1 Handgun
  • 10 Knives
  • 2 Multi-Tools with Knives
  • 1 Pellet Gun
  • 2 Pepper Sprays
  • 1 Taser
  • 1 Brick

2019- 47 Incidents

  • 1½ Gauge Shotgun
  • 2 Handguns
  • 37 Knives
  • 1 BB Gun
  • 1 Paintball Gun
  • 2 Box Cutters
  • 1 Multi-Tool with Knives
  • 2 Pepper Sprays
  • 1 Razor Blade
  • 2 Machetes

2018- 43 Incidents

  • 31 Knives
  • 5 BB Guns
  • 3 Airsoft Guns
  • 3 Pellet Guns
  • 2 Multi-Tools with Knives
  • 2 Pepper Sprays
  • 1 Machete
  • 1 Razor Blade

2017 – 40 Incidents

  • 3 Handguns
  • 26 Knives
  • 5 BB Guns
  • 3 Razor Blades
  • 2 Brass Knuckles
  • 2 Airsoft Guns
  • 1 Hand-Made Shank
  • 1 Pepper Spray
  • 1 Socket Wrench

RELATED: Student arrested after he had gun at White Knoll High school, deputies say

University of South Carolina School of Law professor Josh Gupta-Kagan says those charged could be sentenced to jail time, ordered to pay fines, do community service, and/or complete a diversion program. 

"You don’t have to take it out or threaten anyone with it. You don’t have to brandish the weapon. Just possessing a weapon on school ground is a crime," Gupta-Kagan said. 

Gupta-Kagan says schools are one of the safest places for kids, and to prevent any incident, parents need to be away of their child's behavior. 

RELATED: Student social media 'hoax' leads to lockdown at Lexington school, police say

"They should be looking for any signs of mental illness from their children, or their children’s friends," Gupta-Kagan said. "And if they see it, I would say try to get help for their children."

Sheriff Foster reminds everyone, if you see something, say something. He said by doing so, you could save yours and other people's lives. 

During a news conference on Wednesday, both Governor Henry McMaster and State Superintendent Molly Spearman said they support more funding for increased security at schools, including metal detectors and more school resources officers. 

RELATED: 9-year-old brings gun to Sumter school, man arrested

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