The Armed EMT

Disclaimer: I hunt. I shoot. I believe fervently in the right to keep and bear arms. At last count, I owned seven shotguns, five rifles, four handguns and a perhaps a dozen assorted air rifles, muzzle loaders and antique pieces. And a couple of compound bows. Maybe a blowgun. Enough edged weapons to skin a brontosaurus. I think there’s even a sharp stick (Urg the Neanderthal Signature Model) that I won at auction at the last Pterodactyls Unlimited banquet I attended. Hey, I was drunk and the thing had nice engraving.

That said, I think that any EMT who believes they need to pack heat while on duty has his head up his ass. You do not need to wear a gun while on duty. You need situational awareness, verbal de-escalation skills, and a well-honed sense of when to bug the hell out. Remember the Three R’s – Retreat, Radio and Reassess.

And don’t feed me the old cliche “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.”

I’m not saying EMTs shouldn’t defend themselves. I’m not even opposed to the abstract idea of CCW while on the job. It’s just that most EMTs I know who insist on carrying weapons are just the sort of EMTs who shouldn’t…well…be EMTs. Much less armed EMTs.

They cannot communicate effectively. They lack empathy and compassion. They’re hotheaded. Every patient encounter is an adversarial relationship. They conduct patient interviews like police interrogations. When the feces strike the thermal agitator, they’re the type who thinks shouting orders and throwing their weight around constitutes effective leadership and good crisis management. They’re just not…reasonable people. A reasonable person with a concealed weapon is one of the safest people you will ever meet…and one of the most dangerous, depending on how you approach him. An unreasonable person with a firearm is just plain dangerous, regardless of whether you’re law abiding or not.

Here’s a hint: if you have shown off your carry weapon to your co-workers, you’re just the sort of goober I’m talking about. And here’s the sad thing – most law enforcement agencies wouldn’t have you either, Sergeant Tackleberry.

Both LawDog and Matt G. have spoken about the combat mindset far more eloquently than I have, and they have training in the use of force continuum. Any cop worth his or her salt will tell you that the most effective weapon is the mind. And the most effective conflict resolution tool is talking. Talk, talk, talk.

Keep your wits about you, and keep talking. We as EMTs have an advantage over cops – we have the luxury of being able to disengage from a threat, and most critters view us as non-combatants.

Relax, EMT Tackleberry – I said most, not all. But that line gets dangerously blurred when you start carrying a weapon. For the same reason, I won’t work at an EMS agency that insists on outfitting us in cop-like uniforms and badges.

I want the ability to be able to get a patient in the back of the rig and say conspiratorially, “Relax, bro. I ain’t the fuckinpoleece. But if you want me to help you, you gotta level with me and tell me what you took.”

Call it the EMS version of Good Cop, Bad Cop. I’ll use whatever means necessary to get the information I need to treat the patient. The cops I know respect and understand this.

But unless you are God’s Honest, Truly Prepared mentally and emotionally for what it will mean to take the life of the psychotic/chemically enhanced/angry person whom you were initially called to help, just leave the piece at home.

I invite your comments…