COLUMBIA, S.C. — Some South Carolina troopers have been buying and bringing their own high-powered rifles to work to replace their less lethal state-issued shotguns, according to the agency’s top official.
The Department of Public Safety is seeking $500,000 in next year’s state budget to equip all troopers with AR-15 rifles, which officials contend could save lives if there were a mass shooting in South Carolina.
But Highway Patrol Commander Chris Williamson recently confirmed to the Post and Courier that some front-line troopers wanted the more effective rifles so badly for potential confrontations that about 50 have bought their own in the past couple of years.
A typical AR-15 rifle costs about $1,000. A policy change allowed troopers to carry personal rifles on the job that meet specifications, provided they undergo the agency’s eight-hour course on the weapon.
The effectiveness is definitive. Troopers’ shotguns hold six rounds, and each officer carries four additional shells. But rifle magazines hold 30 bullets, and each trooper gets three magazines, for 90 possible shots.
The agency has already provided rifles to the 150 troopers in its emergency response teams. The budget request would spread them out across the force, allocating 535 Sig Sauer M400 rifles to outfit the remaining troopers who must also take the initial course and a four-hour re-qualification class yearly
Williamson argues rifles would provide more accuracy at longer distances than shotguns and can return more fire. Also, a shotgun’s spreading pellets could inadvertently strike innocent victims, he said.
Fortunately, none of the troopers already armed with a rifle have needed to shoot it, Williamson said.
“They can definitely go in there and get the job done,” Williamson said.