Firehouse

JAN 2017

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Should Firefighters Carry Guns? Arming firefighters who don't have the same level of training as police could place them in even greater danger T alk to any firefighter who has worked in an urban environment, and they can speak about the time they were assaulted by a patient. I am sure it happens in the suburban and rural areas as well, but statistically speaking, it is more likely to happen in a city. Some firefighters may even tell you about having a gun pulled on them or get- ting shot at. Early in my career, while work- ing in a rough neighborhood of St. Louis, we were shot at while parked at the curb to finish some paperwork after a call. We did not stick around long. One of my more notable events was when the State of Missouri EMS director was riding with me, and we went to a shoot- ing call in the days before staging areas. He and I were the first ones on scene. We found ourselves in the back of the house with the shooting victim who was in critical condition, and the assailant pulled a gun on us and ordered us to let him die. The patient was up against the back door, and the only way out was past the lady with the gun. After some smooth talking and a little cajoling, she handed the gun over to us. Over the years, I've seen patients hold firefighters at bay with knives or a stick. I've also seen fire personnel get injured trying to restrain a combative patient. Fire personnel have been shot and, unfortunately, some have been killed when responding to shooting victims or other calls, such as welfare checks. Sometimes it is even a fire call, like when two Memphis firefighters were shot and killed in 2000, or when Maplewood, MO, Firefighter/ Paramedic Ryan Hummert was shot and killed in 2008. The big question All of this begs the question: Should fire- fighters carry firearms to protect them- selves? The State of Kansas earlier this year passed a bill allowing first responders to carry weapons. House Bill 2502 allows employees who work for a municipality or state to carry firearms on their person, except inside of school zones or private buildings that are specifi- cally marked as "gun free." Some fire chiefs and gov- ernments in Kansas have already expressed support for allowing firefighters to carry concealed weapons. Some fire depa r t- ments in Ohio, Tennessee and Florida also allow members of the department to carry con- cealed weapons to defend themselves. I am not against the 2 nd Amendment, but personally, I do NOT think firefighters should carry weapons. If you are going to arm firefighters, who are traditionally seen as someone who comes to help, not harm, you better think it through completely. First, if a firefighter shoots someone, they are using deadly force. Firefighters are not trained when to use deadly force as police officers are. Police officers are trained to use non-deadly force prior to firing their weapon. Police officers are trained to evaluate the situation around them, including bystanders and how signifi- cant the threat is, before discharging their weapon. Even still, police officers come under extreme scrutiny every time they fire their weapon, and some have been charged with murder as a result of shooting and kill- ing someone. Considering that firefighters don't have the same level of training that police officers receive on the use of deadly force and protecting their weapons, imag- ine the repercussions and scrutiny if and when a firefighter shoots and kills someone simply because they felt threatened. As stated, firefight- ers are traditionally seen as people who come to help. Changing that role may put firefighters in a less favorable position when it is assumed that all firefighters are carry- ing weapons. This could work against firefighters who are unarmed when they respond to a scene involving someone who may be armed and sees the firefighters as a threat to them. Lastly, every time a firefighter shoots someone while on duty, you can expect negative publicity toward the department, as some in the community will see the shooting as unjustified—no matter the cir- cumstances. Further, the fire department can expect some type of civil legal action for a firefighter shooting someone. In sum As much as this topic can be controversial and there will those who come down on either side of the debate, I feel it is impor- tant to have training and procedures in place to protect firefighters before arm- ing them to take the lives of those they are there to help. n EMS By Gary Ludwig GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse ® contributing editor, is the fire chief of the Champaign, IL, Fire Department. He has a total of 39 years of fire, rescue and EMS experience. He is a well-known author and lecturer who has successfully managed two large award-winning metropolitan fire-based EMS systems in St. Louis and Memphis. Ludwig is a licensed paramedic and has a master's degree in business and management. He is past chair of the EMS Section for the IAFC. He is the author of the recently published book Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Prayers. Gary Ludwig @GaryLuds garyludwig.com Connect with Gary Imagine the repercussions and scrutiny if and when a firefighter shoots and kills someone simply because they felt threatened. For More EMS firehouse.com/10247606 34 l Firehouse l January 2017

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