September will mark three years since an Upstate elementary school shooting shocked the state.
Six-year-old Jacob Hall was killed after a teenager opened fire at Townville Elementary School.
The shooting prompted a multi-agency response including a South Carolina trooper who was nearby and showed up to the scene with his personal patrol rifle.
Since then, the S.C. Department of Public Safety has been working to equip all troopers and law enforcement officers with those rifles to respond to similar tragedies.
The state Department of Public Safety’s patrol rifle program is not new. But now all troopers with the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) are being trained to use the rifles.
The patrol rifle will allow troopers to respond to mass shootings. The commander of SCHP explained how the roles of state troopers has changed over time.
“At any given day we have troopers out on these roadways patrolling these areas by the schools and these businesses lots of times the trooper may be the first person there,” Colonel Chris Williamson said.
SCDPS has 150 patrol rifles already in the field and are buying 300 more this year to replace outdated shotguns currently used.
Williamson said SCHP has been using shotguns since the department was created.
About 18 officers and troopers were at the firing range in Clinton on Wednesday morning to learn how to use the updated weapons.
Firearms instructor Captain Russell Howard highlighted some advantages the patrol rifle offers the troopers.
“Unlike the shotgun that’s currently issued the butt stock is adjustable for our female officers and smaller officers. this is a magazine fed weapon that can be switched from right hand to left hand the magazine is capable of holding 30 rounds,” said Howard.
The patrol rifle gives officers more accuracy, more ammunition and a greater distance from the shooter.
Colonel Williamson continued, “The officer does not have to get as close to the perpetrator with the rifle as they would with the shotgun but that makes a big difference.”
Troopers will undergo a four-day training program to become familiar with the patrol rifle.
The department plans to purchase an additional 300 rifles at a later date to make sure all troopers and officers with SCDPS are ready to respond.