Funding the main strain for SC law enforcement in getting needed weapons

Published: Jun. 15, 2017 at 1:59 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 12:11 PM EDT
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KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Wednesday's shooting in Alexandria, Virginia shed new light on law enforcement agencies and the continuous struggle some are facing to equip their officers with necessary weapons.

For some, including many small agencies in South Carolina, the cost of assigning a high-powered rifle to every officer isn't attainable even as those weapons are accessible to most in the open marketplace.

"Everybody [every agency} is in a budget crunch right now," Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said.

On Tuesday Matthews said deputies with his office collected an M4 semi-automatic rifle from a residence in Elgin. Investigators believe the weapon was stolen and had been in the possession of a convicted felon.

"It's not a rare find. I mean we find weapons like this that are civilian versions of a military style weapon," Matthews added.

Last year the Kershaw County sheriff's office succeeded in purchasing a series of new M4s. Now every deputy at the office is equipped with one. At other area agencies, officers have to share high-powered rifles or purchase their own.

At the Richland County Sheriff's Department, almost every deputy is equipped with a shotgun and assault rifle.

"Ya know we train constantly with our officers to make sure that they know how to use the equipment and they know how to protect themselves," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. "So we don't just say ex-amount of dollars for assault rifles, that's part of our overall training budget."

For several years now state law enforcement agencies have been able to get some relief acquiring weapons through the federal government.

The Department of Defense's 1033 program has helped issue high power rifles through military surplus.

Officials with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association say that they are currently working to see that program expanded.

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