First responders could get certified to take a gun on campus
by Seanna Adcox | April 4, 2017 2:57 pm
Last Updated: April 4, 2017 at 4:47 pm
A proposal to allow a first responder to take a gun onto a school campus during an emergency is advancing in the Legislature six months after a volunteer firefighter stopped a deadly rampage at a South Carolina elementary school.
The bill that came up for debate Tuesday on the House floor would allow a firefighter or paramedic who has a concealed weapon permit to get certified as a “school first responder” by taking a one-week course through the state’s Criminal Justice Academy.
First responders should be able to defend themselves in an active-shooting scenario and “possibly assist in taking somebody down,” said Rep. Phil Lowe, R-Florence, the bill’s main sponsor.
“We’re putting them in harm’s way,” he said. “If we’re going to ask these people to run into the front lines, it’s no different than a medic in the Army. He’s got a sidearm.”
On Sept. 28, a 14-year-old boy shot and killed his father, then drove to Townville Elementary School in Anderson County and opened fire at first-graders out for recess, fatally shooting a 6-year-old and injuring a classmate and teacher.
It was a 30-year veteran of the Townville Volunteer Fire Department who tackled the teen.
Jamie Brock and Fire Chief Billy McAdams had arrived before officers could respond to the dispatch. McAdams, a paramedic, went inside to tend to those shot. Brock found and tackled the shooter — and kept him down until deputies arrested him.
The sheriff’s office has confirmed that Brock had a handgun, though it’s unclear if he even took it out of its holster, and no one is suggesting charging someone widely hailed as a hero.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, has said the situation demonstrates the absurdity of state law and the need to change it.
The retired police officer says it’s logical that firefighters would be first on the scene. In rural counties, small towns often rely on sheriff’s offices for law enforcement, and a deputy may not be close by.
But the state’s “Safe Schools Act” allows only law enforcement to carry a weapon — whether a gun, knife, pipe or “blackjack” baton — on the property of K-12 schools. It says people with concealed weapon permits must keep their gun locked inside their vehicle while on campus. Violating the law is a felony punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and five years in prison.
The bill Pitts is co-sponsoring directs the Law Enforcement Training Council to create the one-week course. To avoid an expense for the state, it makes people seeking the certification responsible for the training’s cost, estimated at $600 per person.