Paramedics who act as first responders to emergency calls can tell some pretty incredible stories about the violence they’ve seen.
Gunshot wounds, stabbings, domestic beatings — there are times when those events are still in progress when paramedics arrive. There are times when paramedics and EMTs beat police to a scene by several minutes. There are times when they know only what their dispatchers have been able to glean, over the phone, about the security of an unfamiliar location and the intent of its occupants.
Those times make for some crazy stories. But there are a few emergency responders who aren’t around to share them anymore, because they were shot dead while on a call, doing a job fraught with nearly as many dangers as firefighting and police work.
In rural Texas, paramedics could soon be allowed to carry firearms for on-the-job protection, if a bill introduced this year by Representative Ken King (R-Canadian) succeeds before the State Legislature. The bill would also allow firefighters and “other individuals,” both paid and volunteer, to carry weapons if they’re engaged in an emergency response operation.
CBS 11 News in Dallas/Fort Worth heard both opposition and support for the idea Tuesday from people in the local Emergency Response business.
Whether residents support arming emergency responders is another matter.
On one hand, first responders certainly face exposure to agitated, excited and dangerous people more frequently than does the general population.
On the other, arming paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and “other individuals” would undoubtedly alter the fundamental public perception of what it means to be an emergency responder and could inadvertently lend medical and fire personnel the aura of enforcers. Citizens may balk at the idea that special legislation can extend gun-carrying protections to a new category of uniformed public service workers at a time when the general population’s 2nd Amendment rights are under fire.
Given the right cocktail of bad circumstances, it might even force well-intentioned emergency workers to make choices about whether to use their firearms in “shoot first” scenarios. And in America’s tort-drunk legal environment, that could be disastrous for the private companies and public agencies that employ them.
The Texas bill isn’t sweeping in its ambitions; it’s aimed only at emergency workers in counties of 50,000 or fewer people. It wouldn’t affect densely populated areas — where violent crime is typically more frequent – and, therefore, won’t “protect” many of the very paramedics and firefighters likely to face self-defense situations.
But the bill does raise the question of whether arming public servants engaged in non-defense and non-enforcement work exceeds the 2nd Amendment powers afforded regular civilians.