Gang members toting high-powered weapons on Columbia's streets - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Gang members toting high-powered weapons on Columbia's streets

(Lexington) July 21, 2006 - Gang violence in the Midlands has some people on edge.

On Saturday, 19-year-old Denise Boykin was shot and killed at the Barnyard Flea Market in Lexington County. Authorities think gunmen were trying to target the woman's boyfriend. Six people have been arrested. A semi-automatic weapon was used in the shooting.

A SLED agent shows us the power of an AK-47, capable of shooting nine bullets in quick succession 2,400 feet per second. It's the type of gun used in combat.

But one of them was found on the streets of Columbia. It's one of many high-powered weapons that make up SLED's collection of guns stripped from criminals and gang members.

While semi-automatic weapons continue to be the standard weapon of gangs, officers say there's been a rise in the use of what you could call "bigger and badder" firearms.

One of the reasons is that the guns are easy to get. Cpt. Stan Smith says, "I've worked a number of cases  recently where guns were lawfully purchased by the individuals who used them in the crime."

In South Carolina if you're over 21, you can buy an AK-47 model at a gun shop for as little as $130.

Officers say juveniles get adults to buy the guns, or they steal them.

That is frightening to officials like Lt. Ricky Ezzell, "These rounds have the capability of going through our body armor, so it's pretty scary."

Lt. Ezzell shoots an AR15. It's the civilian version of the military's M-16. The bullets left behind are similar to what's been found in gang warfare in Richland County.

Lt. Ezzell talks about some of the weapons they've found, "On some of the rounds we've gotten off them you could line three to four people in a row and if you shoot the first one it will go through all of them."

And even someone like WIS' Angie Goff, who is inexperienced at the shooting range, can hit a target 20 feet away with the weapon.

Gangs are using guns more than ever. Smith says weekly disputes are ending with gunfire. Cpt. Smith is concerned it will get worse, "Until some of the, perhaps, legislation is changed regarding how guns are obtained, we're going to see probably increase in weapons and firearms used in these incidents."

But Smith admits, no matter what the law, gangs who want guns will find a way to get them.   

Reported by Angie Goff

Updated 5:33pm by Chantelle Janelle

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