Guns in EMS

It's a hot-button topic, provoking visceral reactions from people on both sides of the issue.

People seem unable to discuss the issue dispassionately, so much so that some blogger friends of mine have dashed off blog posts vehemently disagreeing with a position I didn't take.

Go. Read.

I invite your comments – either pro or con – but keep them civil. Shouting at each other doesn't promote understanding, it just makes your opponent more entrenched in their position.

  • Christopher

    I think anecdotes of violent encounters as a reason to allow concealed carry is a bit of a probability fallacy. Regardless, for me it boils down to this: I don’t trust anybody but myself with a gun (and its corollary, “I don’t trust myself to sleep in a vehicle that I’m not driving.”).

    A partner carrying a handgun on duty significantly raises my suspicion and any sane individual would keep a close watch on them. You carry a handgun for one reason only: to apply deadly force or the threat thereof. You hit the nail on the head with the worry that our mindset would change during patient care.

    Kip brings up a great point, albeit indirectly. Mistaken shootings are significant among officer-involved-shootings, so why should we think EMS would be any different? Why should I think my partner would be any more or less apt to make the same mistakes as officers do?

    It’s just one more potential scene safety factor I’ve got to be worried about…

    • Ambulance_Driver

      And I’m just the opposite: if I can’t trust my partner with a weapon, I can’t trust my partner, period. I try not to work with people I can’t trust.
      I’ve met a lot more CHL holders who practiced more discretion than most EMT’s I know.
      If, and that’s a big IF, EMT’s were allowed to carry on-duty, most likely those who would take advantage of that opportunity already hold a valid CHL.
      I can virtually guarantee you’ve been around those people every day when off-duty, and perhaps even at work, and you never knew it.

      • Christopher

        I’m not afforded the opportunity to work with regular partners. There are some I trust, but do not know if I could trust their reaction under a situation of violence. There are some I probably could trust both with a weapon and their reaction, I would just want advance warning so I never stood between them and anybody else. I work semi-rural and certainly have been around individuals I knew to be carrying, and I keep on my toes while around them…because what choice do I have?

        The point is somewhat moot as while many an anecdote are available regarding violent situations and EMS providers, the likelihood I will be in a situation where both someone on scene and my partner draw firearms is exceedingly remote.

        • Ambulance_Driver

          You are correct in that we only have isolated anecdotes instead of data. And if we looked at the odds, I’d wager that for 99.9% of calls, the presence of a firearm would not save the EMT’s life.

          Problem is, the cost of being the 0.01% is your LIFE.

          In that situation, I’m a fan of anecdote. ;)

  • CombatDoc

    The truth of the
    matter is we would benefit more from self-defense training that would allow us
    the opportunity to get out of a situation. I agree with you 100%, and I carry a
    weapon 100% of the time I am not on the clock, that the best defense is not
    being there. We are not afforded the choices of where we go and when we go
    there in EMS. That does not mean you need a weapon to get out safely. I have
    carried a weapon almost every day for over 15 years and have been in one
    situation outside of Iraq that I had the legal right to take another life. That
    person lived to be arrested later because I also had an out to escape the
    situation and instead of relieving the person of blood and tissue I chose to
    run.

    In EMS we need
    situational awareness, not bullets. We need to know how and when to be verbally
    commanding, not worrying about when it is appropriate to draw down on someone.
    We need to be able to get out using physical force if needed, not worrying
    about weapon retention. Above all we need to be professional and respectful
    because that will go much further in diffusing situations and preventing
    violence. I have a concern that there would be one, and it only would take one,
    medic that would have a different attitude and be defiant and confrontational
    because of a false sense of security. Kind of like how alcohol makes someone 10
    feet tall and bulletproof. Personally I have held my tongue because I did not
    want my ass kicked on scene and I have to ask myself if I would have held it if
    I had that weapon on my hip? I would hope so but, we are all human.

    People talk about the
    aggressive, agitated, or violent patient. They need treatment and most would
    not respond to aggression. We have Law Enforcement for help, train with them in
    how to subdue in order to sedate. I am very familiar with the situation that happened
    in Fort Wayne, IN and there was nothing that could have prevented it. No amount
    of fire power on the ambulance would have changed the situation and there was
    no way to even predict it. A friend was injured and a lot of people are
    concerned about everyone’s safety and that is legitimate. Arming medics is not
    the answer to violence like that. Violence like that is very rare but, it is
    unpredictable and it will happen again no matter what we do. Chances are if it
    happens to you will not even have time to recognize it and react until it is
    over and a weapon would not make a difference. I could potentially believe
    arming medics as an answer if there were no officers being ambushed and killed.
    If they cannot stop it with their extensive training how can we say it would be
    better for us?

    All of that said I have been in combat and I have fired a weapon after
    taking a proper sight picture of another human being, both out of self-defense and
    anger. I shoot anywhere from a few boxes to cases of ammo every week. Every
    day I get up and put my Glock 19 on my hip I hope that when I
    come home my seven year streak of only shooting inanimate objects and tasty
    four legged animals stays intact. Anyone who has not taken a life needs to
    understand the personal ramifications that carrying a weapon can give you. I
    have enough responsibility that demands my undivided attention on every run and
    I do not need the extra stress of mixing responsibilities by being armed.

    • Jack Morris

      As a human being, I believe that I have the right to defend myself with an equal amount of force as any aggressor I may encounter. If a person enacts deadly force against me, I have the human right to respond accordingly.

      I carry every single day. If anything, it has made me a less aggressive person by doing so. I have admitted complete fault and de-escalated situations even when I was completely in the right. I recently had a drunk frat-boy try to pick a fight with me (i have no idea why). I could have talked smack and put myself into a position where it would be legally acceptable to use lethal force. Since I was carrying a gun, this wasn’t even an option in my mind. My ego is not worth taking a life, so I let his insults and taunting go right through me. An armed society is a polite society.

      All thing aside; I have a duty to take care of my wife and family. How can I protect them if a criminal targets us and I’m unarmed? How can I take care of them if I’m killed on the job? Why does any of this become less important when I put on a uniform?

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