Should EMS and FD Carry Firearms on Duty?

A Texas bill on the desk in front of lawmakers this month would allow first responders to carry firearms on duty. State Representative John Wray (R-Texas) of Waxahachie told CBS News that the reason behind the legislation is the safety of fire department and EMS personnel, especially in less urban areas, where first responders are often there on scene long before law enforcement arrives. He wants them to be licensed and trained, of course, and have concealed permits to carry. House Bill 982 describes first responders as anyone working in fire protection or emergency medical services – even volunteers.

This latest wave of beefing up the first responder protection arsenal comes on the heels of many agencies nationwide purchasing tactical ballistic vests and helmets for personnel to carry on their rigs, in case things go bad in a hurry. And they sometimes do.

Agencies in places like Cleveland, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and Florida have already procured them. Pinellas County EMS (Florida) and its respective fire agencies, for example, just purchased ballistic vests and helmets for each crew member to keep on their emergency units as part of their personal protective equipment.

Orlando FD sought out as much outside funding as possible to equip their firefighters and paramedics with this life-saving gear, after the PULSE nightclub massacre. On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, and kept medical first responders at bay for hours until police could control the scene.

These incidents are not based on what-ifs – real reports of violence against EMS and FD responders surface daily. Almost one year ago, an Arkansas fire lieutenant was shot to death while trying to render aid to a medical patient. Lt. Ronald Jason Adams, 29, of the Sherwood Fire Department, responded to a seizure call and was shot several times by an occupant in the home. He died a short time later at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock.

18Confronting violent situations is the nature of the job. Many of us have entered active shooter scenes on a miscommunication due to pure chaos, only to retreat back out because the threat hadn’t been eliminated. People target uniforms, any uniforms. And that will never change.

But does this mean we should carry firearms on duty? A lot is involved in putting something like that into place. Will it cause more problems than it solves? Or have we reached a point in this world where we need that kind of protection at hand?

Even if legislation passes to allow first responders to carry firearms on duty, it doesn’t mean we can relax about scene safety. That’s still priority number one – everyone goes home. Critics have voiced that carrying a firearm on duty will make personnel lax about ensuring a safe scene.

And carrying a weapon doesn’t guarantee your safety. It just means you have access to use deadly force. Can you pull it out in time if you had to? Think of the adrenaline. Could you pull the trigger at another human being, in light of the fact that we have all entered this profession to save lives, not take them?

I, myself, personally carry a semiautomatic firearm. I keep it for home safety, keep my licensure current and make sure I practice with it often. But, would I want to carry it on duty? I’m not so sure.

An enormous amount of training will be required before any first responder can carry a firearm on duty – even if they possess a concealed weapons permit and shoot on a regular basis. Protocols and Standard Operating Procedures will vary from agency to agency, and much continuing education and drilling will have to take place before ay weapon is allowed on a rig.

Departments will have to secure additional funding, and have very specific plans on when and where to allow their personnel to deploy a firearm.

Texas isn’t the only state. The topic has been brought up in Kansas, Georgia, Florida and New York.

There’s been no word yet on when House Bill 982 will come up for further discussion, or a vote.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Leah Dallaire

Leah G. Dallaire is a highly accomplished freelance writer, editor and consultant with 28 years of experience. She has also concurrently been a paramedic for 20 years; the last 17 she spent serving the citizens of Pinellas County, Florida, which has a call volume of about 209,000 runs per year. She holds an M.A. and a B.A. in Writing & Literature from Union University. She has also just finished her first novel.
Leah Dallaire

4 thoughts on “Should EMS and FD Carry Firearms on Duty?

  1. As long as the EMS and FD personnel get rigorous continuous training. An untrained person with a firearm can cause some serious problems!!

  2. As any. Maybe a carry on rig is an order. Pulse club shooting did prevent ems to help the wounded. Able to give return fire and cover fire would have been a difference in loss of lives.

  3. I feel like yes they do deserve to. i am curious to see how the FD would actually carry a gun when they would have to suit up to go in a house thats burning. but i believe it would be easy for them to team up with the local PD to train EMS and FD in firearm proficiency

  4. Yes the first-responders should be required to take weapons training. After completing the training the responders should be armed. After serving as a first responder for 40 years I think that the need for ballistic protection goes without saying. A fire helmet designed K-Pot is vital.

  5. I don’t agree with all first responders(fire-EMT-park ranger etc) carrying firearms but in rural locations or places where responses can take hours, that might be practical. In Florida, suicides & drug-alcohol abuse are major problems with first responders. Adding loaded guns to the mix could be a big mistake. I’d add that many first responders are military veterans so the chances of ADs or mishaps are low. Some smaller communities like Daytona Beach Shores Florida have “public safety officers” where sworn LE & EMTs are certified or cross trained for emergencies.

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