COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A joint task force between the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia Police Department resulted in the seizure of more 1,000 guns off the streets.
The task force, unveiled in April, is designed to curb gun violence in the community.
“It seems like everybody has a gun today,” Sheriff Leon Lott said. “Everybody’s got a gun.”
RCSD has investigated 25 murders so far in 2018, with an additional six shooting death investigations still underway. That’s up from 23 murders in 2017. Despite the increase, Sheriff Lott said without the task force in place, the numbers could have been far higher.
“It scares me to death to think of how many crimes we probably stopped by getting these guns off the street,” Sheriff Lott said. “We still got a lot and we lost too many people to gun violence already.”
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said the rise in the number of homicides within the city is not an indication of overall violent crime trends.
“I do not think it’s the measuring stick for violent crime, it always seems to be the focal point but what we really look at is aggravated assault and robberies,” Holbrook said. “Those numbers are actually down.”
Both Holbrook and Lott said most alarming of all is the readily available guns in the hands of young adults and the way in which they go about solving problems.
“If they get in an argument on social media or someone makes a comment at school, nobody uses their words or even fights about it anymore,” Lott said. “Instead, they pull out their guns.”
“The problem with young adults is they don’t make good decisions a lot of times,” Holbrook said. “They make emotional decisions that can have permanent consequences.”
Both leaders said they need the community’s help in curbing the violence, which can be as easy as taking a firearm inside rather than leaving it inside an unlocked car.
“We have to put some of the responsibility on parents,” Lott said. “Too many parents are trying to be their kid’s friend when they need to be a parent.”
RCSD said since April, it has collected 633 guns off of the streets. CPD said by the end of the year, it will be on track to have seized between 550 to 600 guns.