Will Virginia EMT’s Be Granted Right To Carry Firearms?

Well, to be precise, it wouldn't be granting anything.

More properly, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is considering recognizing a human right that supercedes any state regulation.

Continuing the general regulatory trend started by Governor Mark Warner (D), and continued by Governor Bob McDonnell (R), Virginia is continuing to strike more state regulations banning gun carry. This time it's Old Domination ambulance crews who will regain their right to bear arms.

Allow me to make a prediction on what will happen if Virginia ambulance crews start to carry weapons:


No blood in the streets, no Wild West-style shootouts (largely a Hollywood fiction in which most anti-gun types fervently believe), no EMT's bustin' caps in unruly patients, no unruly patients disarming those ignorant, untrained EMT's and shooting them with their own weapons, no EMT's barging into unsafe scenes  bolstered with a misplaced sense of invulnerability because they're packing heat.


Each one of those arguments is a favorite of people who fear guns, know little about guns, and project their own fear and ignorance on everyone else who would potentially carry a gun. And they keep not happening.

I remember at an EMS convention a few years back, I was invited to participate in a live podcast from the exhibit hall floor. The event was co-located with a major law enforcement expo, and as a result, there were plenty of tables and booths crowded with pistols, sniper rifles, M4 carbines and other tactical gear, sandwiched between the EMS booths.

I arrived late, just in time to begin recording, and as I got miked up, one of the podcast hosts teased me that the reason I arrived late is that I was distracted by all the tables of shiny weapons on the way in. Another guest, a good friend and respected EMS educator and innovator, remarked that he was happy to be from one of the few states left that banned concealed carry of firearms.

I smiled and said, "Not for long," as his state had shall-issue concealed carry legislation pending (which eventually passed). He replied, "Well, at least no one is carrying guns here."

I leaned in and whispered, "How do you know that? There are no signs posted as required by law at every entrance and exit, at least not in the parking garage entrance. There might be someone carrying a weapon sitting right next to you. Considering the state we're in, I wouldn't doubt that 20% of the people here are packing."

Apparently, he didn't consider me a threat, because we continued the podcast and even went out to sign karaoke together later that night. And as his state's concealed carry legislation neared passing, we kept up a friendly dialogue about the process.

People will be resorting to vigilante justice.

Didn't happen.

Just watch, some CCW holder is going to get shot by police, or vice versa, in some tragic mixup.

Didn't happen.

They're gonna let people carry weapons in restaurants that serve alcohol. I can just see the drunken shootouts now.

Didn't happen.

Lord, people are applying by the thousands. I never knew my state had so many bloodthirsty rednecks.

So far, no reports of those bloodthirsty rednecks engaging in crime.

Of course, that's the point. Everywhere gun rights restrictions are eased, people afraid of guns keep making dire predictions, and those predictions keep not happening.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on May 5, 2012 that concealed carry laws applied even on college campuses.

Any drunken fraternity shootings? Any professors shot by students dissatisfied with their grades? 

Didn't happen.

I predict that allowing concealed carry by EMT's in Virginia will have exactly the same effect that allowing college students to carry had in Colorado: none.

None, except that ambulances and college campuses are no longer guaranteed victim disarmament zones. That's sort of the point.

I don't carry a weapon on duty at The Borg. Number one, it's against company policy, and when I cash The Borg's paycheck, I agree to abide by their rules. I leave my activism at the door to the ambulance station. Number two, I really never felt the need to carry at work. Now, if The Borg and the state of Louisiana suddenly decided to take a page from Virginia's book, would I carry?

Yes, definitely.

I'd have the same mindset that I have every day I carry a weapon in civilian clothes, the same mindset shared by 99.9% of all people who choose to carry a firearm: "Please God, don't let me have to shoot anyone today."

And we'd take those steps necessary to make that possibility unlikely; we'd be wary of our surroundings, and we'd avoid places and situations that put us in danger if at all possible. But it's the unpredictable dangers that make carrying a weapon necessary. No one purchasing a fire extinguisher plans to have their house catch fire, after all.

I wouldn't carry openly at work. I don't believe much in the deterrent factor anyway, nor do I believe it makes me a likelier target for attackers. But I do believe it would erase a line in the minds of some of my patients who view police as the adversary and medics to be, if not friendlies, at least non-combatants. Playing the "You can trust me, I'm not the po po," angle is useful to me in my line of work. I'd like to keep the ability to do that.

When I carried openly before I got my concealed hangun license, activism was as much a goal as self defense. I wanted people to see a guy carrying a gun openly who wasn't being a complete asshole itching for a confrontation with the cops; just a benign neighborly type, non-threatening, Ned Flanders with a 1911.

Carrying openly at work, it simply isn't possible to project that image.

If the idea of your EMT's carrying weapons fills you with trepidation, I know exactly where you're coming from. In fact, I used to have the same concerns. Here's what I said back then:

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.

My opinion was based on classic selection bias; all the people I knew who carried on-duty were idiots, therefore I assumed that every EMT who carried on-duty was an idiot. I later learned that was not the case.

Not every EMT in Virginia is going to rush out to the gun store, Visa card in hand, and breathlessly ask, "Say buddy, what's the best heater for taking down a 300-pound meth-head in excited delirium when 5 of Haldol IM, 10 of intranasal Versed, three shocks with a Tazer and several whacks with a D oxygen cylinder have failed to slow him down? Gimme two of those, and a 30-round mag… just in case."

Much more likely to happen is that a bunch of EMT's who already have concealed carry permits – all over 21, having passed a criminal background check and completed a training course, I might add – will start carrying at work… and very few others will.

And those permit holders are already among the most law-abiding citizens in society.

About 6.3 times less likely to break the law than the average member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in fact.

If you're a Virginia resident and you support the right to keep and bear arms, voice your support for the measure here.


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