Originally created 09/14/99

Officers to receive new guns



AIKEN - In the coming weeks, Aiken Public Safety officers will be issued a more precise weapon -- .40-caliber Glocks strapped to their right hips.

City council approved the $34,000 purchase Monday.

Every 10 years, Public Safety upgrades its weapons. Currently, the gun of choice is the stainless steel Ruger 9mm semiautomatic. But this year, South Carolina has contracted with Glock Inc. Aiken City Council went with that bid, as it typically does when items are dealt with in bulk.

The going price is $348 per gun, which is the same weapon fired by local law enforcement agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Public Safety Chief Pete Frommer said the Glock is fast becoming the preferred pistol because it is precise, easy to clean and even easier to train with.

From the late 1960s to the early '80s officers packed Smith & Wessons, but the department upgraded to Rugers later that decade. The latest upgrade is the sixth in 30 years.

The problem with the Ruger, police chiefs say, is that its bullet has a history of penetrating the target, exiting it, then striking other objects in its path.

Aiken City Council voted unanimously Monday to buy 100 pistols at the quoted price of $34,800. But the city will attempt to recoup a portion of that money by allowing public safety officers first shot at buying their old weapons for $159 each.

If the guns were sold at retail prices, officers would have to pay between $250 to $300.

Officers also will use the pistols as off-duty weapons, as many on the force supplement their incomes as security officers.

The practice has been a longstanding city policy -- one that officials say puts weapons in trained hands.

The second option was to sell discarded weapons to federally licensed gun dealers. Several quoted retail prices of between $125 to $159.

But the council hasn't decided how it will handle confiscated weapons that have been stockpiling for nearly a decade. City Manager Roger LeDuc recommended that they be sold to Glock, which would pay the city $6,790.

Several councilmen expressed concern that the guns may eventually fall into criminal hands, however, so the issue was tabled for another meeting.

If the guns aren't sold to Glock, the council may simply vote to have them melted down.

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.