Lawmaker wants troopers to have AR-15 rifles: 'If we can't fund it, we need to have a bake sale to do it'

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Highway Patrol troopers want to carry AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in their patrol cars because of fears they could be "out-gunned" or "combat ineffective."

"To not have this equipment, it's ludicrous," Highway Patrol Sgt. David Whatley said.

The Highway Patrol wants the state to pay for each trooper to carry a rifle to respond long-range to any mass shooting scenario, at the price of $500,000.

Some lawmakers, like Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) are supportive.

"If we can't fund it, we need to have a bake sale to do it," Rutherford said. "This is something that we absolutely need to do."

The Civil Emergency Response already carries the rifles and so do about 50 troopers who carry their own personal rifle. Those troopers pay out of pocket for that firearm and ammunition.

Holding his personal rifle, Whatley said he's taken his personal safety in his hands. He bought the AR-15 to carry on patrol and paid for the ammo to re-certify through training each year.

"Every round that goes down range that's money out of my pocket," Whatley said.

Whatley resigned from the Highway Patrol due to frustrations with leadership. His resignation is effective in just a few months. However, he supports the department's funding request to get troopers rifles on the job.

He said that addresses a safety issue.

"It seems like you have to jump over all these hurdles just to protect yourself or protect the public," Whatley said. "I don't know if the right word is asinine if I'm allowed to say that or not but, it really is. It's crazy."

He fears the state-issued pistol and shotgun troopers now carry won't do the job in mass shooting scenarios where the bad guy has a better, long-range weapon. Former trooper trainer, Billy Warren, thinks so, too.

"You're outgunned," Warren said. "You're in a bad situation, yes. And the problem is, you don't know from day to day when you leave the house when this is going to happen. So are we willing to wait to buy the rifles after a bad scenario and say we should've?"

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.