Armed Firefighters and Medics Again is Debated

Today’s burning question: I keep reading that fire departments around the country are contemplating allowing their EMS crews to carry guns.  I was wondering what your opinion is on the legality of this?

Answer: This seems to be the burning question from Lazarus… it just keeps coming back to life.

We actually discussed armed firefighters and medics not that long ago. Click here for Armed Firefighters – the Debate Continues.  

Without repeating everything said previously my position is pretty simple: I don’t think it is wise – but it is not illegal to allow firefighters/medics to be armed.

My biggest point remains: If a department is going to do it, they need to do it right. That means the department needs a well thought-out and well written policy along with an appropriate level of training before personnel are allowed to carry on-duty.

Simply allowing any/every employee with a carry permit to carry on-duty is IMHO crazy. The previous post addresses my concerns… but to summarize – the training must address issues beyond simple firearms proficiencies. The training needs to include simulator practice on issues like shoot don’t shoot scenarios, safety considerations of down range innocents, the use of force continuum (we do not want shooting to be the first and only option we condone that our employee use), and probably the most important issue: employees need training on maintaining control of their weapon… as in what do you do when you are carrying a stretcher and someone grabs for your gun.

Guns in the workplace have implications even for those who do not intend to carry. Co-workers need training on firearms safety in the event the armed member is injured/disabled and someone needs to take possession of the weapon (probably an area we should be providing training anyway).

If a department can address all of these issues then my concerns are addressed. What do you think?

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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