I do a lot of reading, and lately a similar theme keeps rearing its ugly head: Arming firefighters and EMT's. I cringe whenever I see a headline, "Firefighters shot," EMS Crew stabbed," Paramedic assaulted," and every combination of those imaginable, and wonder what we can do to stop our people from getting hurt. Best I can figure is to stay alert, be aware of our surroundings and call for help before it's needed. Even then, sometimes everything we do isn't enough.

I do not want a gun. It's not that I don't like guns, because I do. They are fascinating, beautiful  tools, finely crafted, precise and a true marvel of engineering. Great things, really.

But carrying one at work? Quite simply, my effectiveness as an EMT, Firefighter, First Responder, Incident Commander, Haz-Mat Technician, Ice Rescue, Water Rescue, Stuck Between Building Rescue, Trench Rescue, Peacemaker, Communicator, Negotiator, Therapist, Father, Brother, Mother, Friend, or whatever the call brings with it will be compromised.

No matter how much it weighs, a gun is heavy. I'm already carrying just about all I can on a call, physically and mentally, the added weight of responsibility a gun carries is just too much to bear. My part in the Public Safety world is difficult enough, and a constant challenge. I need to trust that the other parts of the Public Safety puzzle are not overburdened. The police have the guns. They train with them, take care of them, bear the weight of responsibility that comes with them.

As with anything, there are exceptions. Fire/EMS crews in rural areas who are not responding to dozens of calls every shift, a large percentage of which involve violent people have the luxury of wearing two, or more hats, and wearing them well. I've read accounts of volunteer firefighters who are paid police officers. Or firefighters who are also deputies. They carry weapons because they are the law and the firefighters.

Good for them.

As for me? I'm no stranger to gunfire. I have wrestled my share of uncooperative people, been in fear for my life many times, certain I would die once, have seen partners attacked and disabled by combative patients and not once would carrying a firearm done any good.

I cannot begin to imagine the trouble that would have been caused if my sidearm were visible while doing CPR on a gunshot victim in front of his posse..

Guns themselves are okay, but on an EMS rig they are far more trouble than they are worth.


  • Steve says:

    Can you imagine the number of 'ambush' calls you might see, just so some thugs can swipe your gun(s)???   Scarey!

  • Art says:

    Steve does that really happen to police officers?????? These criminals are not looking for a gun fight, they might die. They are looking for easy pickin's. I would think that other means of control could be incorporated like tasers or mace which would be lighter to carry. In some areas only a police escort can increase your safety factor and not guaranteed at that.

  • Mr618 says:

    A whole passel of medical bloggers and both pro-and anti-gun bloggers have weighted in on this. One point that I think has not received enough attention is this: if we, as uniformed medical professioanls, are armed, to many, that would make us "cops". As Steve points out above, that could lead to bogus calls, but it could also poison the (reasonably) good reputation EMS seems to have even in the togher neighborhoods. After all, the Emergency Medical Taxi doesn't take sides, it takes folks to the hospital. If, however, we wind up being perceived as the po-po, those who need our care might be less likely to give us accurate histories (or any history) for that matter, for fear we would use the info against them.
    I don't know about a lot of the big cities, but up here in Maine, the uniformed EMS crews tend toward polos or T-shirts, specifically to avoid being taken for "the man." The cities that have fire-based EMS obviously has to have the EMS personnel in fire unforms, but I suspect those departments very carefully avoid navy blue pants with navyt blue shirts with royal blue ties for the same reason.

  • Bill says:

    You know its funny but I am one of those that do both sides of the aisle, one paid the other unpaid. I tend to agree with your take on this. carrying a weapon isn't so much about whether or not you can hit a target it's a different state of mind. Just blatantly passing them out to ff's to fill a void would be a disaster. It takes all rookie cops a fair amount of time to learn that the reality is the most powerful tool you carry is your mouth. Sure, there are times when something else is needed, but the way you carry yourself and talk to people can change many situations.
    As a side note, returning from one job and heading home one day I ended up helping out a short handed medic and emt on a serious medical call. While riding in to RI ER with a patient that was on the death bed (in fact coded shortly after hand off) the ER doc completely freaked out and ignored the medics report b/c of the sidearm. He coudn't figure it out and it so bothered him it very much affected his patient care. The few other times I've encountered this scenario it's never been a problem even with the local pd. So yeah your also correct in more rural areas you do see this dynamic go on now with little fanfare.

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Michael Morse

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