"We have the technology, dammit": SC lawmaker pushes metal detectors for school safety

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - A state lawmaker says the cost of putting metal detectors in every school in South Carolina can't wait until "tragedy" strikes.

Tragedy struck in Florida Wednesday afternoon when authorities say a teenager opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, killing numerous people.

Charleston state Rep. Wendell Gilliard is co-sponsoring a bill at the State House that would require school districts to install metal detectors at the entrance of every public school, gym and football stadium in South Carolina.

"Technology can help us solve problems in our society," said Gilliard.

The Lowcountry Democrat acknowledges that metal detectors aren't a "solve-all", but are a step in the right direction.

"Nothing is 100 percent. But, if we have the technology, dammit, let's use it for the safety of our children and our teachers," said Gilliard. "I hope and pray that we don't have to wait until a tragedy to go ahead and do what's sensible."

Installing metal detectors in schools, he says, is what's sensible.

Gilliard has met with state education superintendent Molly Spearman about hosting a forum with businesses that produce metal detectors where company representatives can talk about the cost factor and implementing the technology.

Earlier this month, a report from the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office estimated the move would have a $98.3 million recurring cost to school districts in the state.

Gilliard argues there are so many companies in the marketplace that make metal detectors, that the cost might not be as high as people think.

He's faced questions about cost before when he was pushing the importance of police body cameras. A measure requiring body-worn cameras for officers only passed after April 2015's deadly police shooting of motorist Walter Scott in North Charleston. A bystander captured the incident with cellphone video. Observers pointed out the importance of video evidence in the case.

Gilliard says it shouldn't take another tragedy to install security measures in South Carolina's schools.

Metal detectors likely wouldn't have helped head off a shooting like the one in Florida. Late Wednesday, officials said the shooting started outside the school building.

Still, Gilliard says installing metal detectors is worth the investment.

"There's always a price on something, but, you can never put a price on a life," said Gilliard.

Gilliard has also filed a separate bill to set up a study committee on metal detectors. In January, it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Public Works

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