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Home > Topics > Social Media for EMS

EMS1 community: Pros and cons of armed EMS personnel

By EMS1 Staff

With reports of increased violence on calls, some EMS personnel are feeling more and more unsafe on the job. Now, some fire stations are considering arming their EMTs and paramedics. We decided to ask our Facebook community if they thought it was time for first responders to start carrying guns. It was a pretty hot topic, getting more than 1,000 responses, some for and some against armed EMS personnel. If you've got more to add, make sure to comment below. Here are the 10 best responses:

Arguments for

"Yes. I work in a city that had about 23 shootings in one month with fewer officers on the street due to cutbacks. Things are getting rough for everybody." - Brian Villanueva


"I think all law-abiding citizens should be required to have firearms and prove they know how to use and maintain them. The nice people outnumber the jerks, and we just need to equalize the firepower." - Elias Friedman


"EMTs definitely should — I know there have been many instances where they've been harmed or killed in the line of duty. I've dealt with drunks and aggressive patients in the back of an ambulance, and you never TRULY know what you're dealing with when it comes to going to a call." - Drew Berry


"If paramedics complete a firearms safety course and are deemed capable in field trials by a certified firearms instructor, then yes, I believe we should have a right to carry while on duty. Situations are getting more and more dangerous by the day! Criminals have guns; why should we only have O2 cylinders and med boxes to protect ourselves?!" - Katie Goldman


"Absolutely! EMTs and firefighters have a dangerous job just like police officers. In fact, they are usually the first ones on scene, so they can get the bad end of the deal most times!" - Kristi Medley

Arguments Against

"Some people can barely handle the responsibility of charts much less the liability of carrying a weapon I would like aving good body armor." - Brandon Bam Bam Robertson


"Even trained law enforcement misuses guns to a certain extent. Firefighters and EMTs have enough to handle without having to worry about firearms." - Angelo Castelli


"Why keep a loaded gun around where people can grab it? Scene safety should be the biggest thing with this; send EMS and Firefighters through some self-defense courses. But let's be honest, if you're that worried about a call, stage and wait for police backup. That's what they are for." - Chris Day


"I would feel terrible because it is against our oath. But it may be better to have one just in case. But the last thing we need is for the public to start hating EMS and FD. PD gets enough heat from the mess-ups." - Jon Gull

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The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Jack Popadak Jack Popadak Thursday, September 20, 2012 4:58:33 PM To carry or not to carry is not the question! The question is, has 1 EMS person EVER been killed by not having a firearm? How many un-used pieces of equipment are there on your squad? how many new gadgets are on the market? Do we stock up on "stuff". No, we only carry what we need & use. Again, please give me one example of an EMS worker getting killed when a gun would have prevented it. 38 years in the business and don't know of any....
Kelly Grayson Kelly Grayson Thursday, September 20, 2012 6:15:55 PM Don't take this as a disagreement, Jack, because I'm not so sure they're necessary myself, but you're asking people to prove a negative. That cannot be done. And your 38 years in the business are ultimately only YOUR 38 years in the business. Anecdote does not equal data.
Jarrett Hubbard Jarrett Hubbard Thursday, September 20, 2012 9:08:45 PM I believe EMS (First Responders) with the proper training should have the option to carry a firearm on there person. I don't feel this should be a requirement but I do feel this should be an option. I have no intentions of going into an unsafe scene but I have been on scene's that become unsafe. I would feel much more comfortable. I carry a firearm 99% of the time when I am not on the ambulance, I keep firearms at my home for protection, I have taken the proper training and hold a valid CCW permit so why should I have to be defensless when I am trying to help others.
Joseph Ogershok Joseph Ogershok Friday, September 21, 2012 2:51:58 AM Last time I checked, I so not give up my 2nd amendment eights when I became an EMT. When I was a medic in the Army I carried a weapon for the protection of my patient.
Mike Wells Mike Wells Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:04:51 PM With the proper training I believe they should be armed. even the most simple call can escalate out of control quickly
Steve Rowland Steve Rowland Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:05:06 PM As a Canadian, I think that several non-lethal options should be researched before issuing firearms to crews. Body armour for those that need it, pepper spray and tasers along with more/better training in scene safety would be a better route. However, if those options fail or are not possible then arm the crews. Remember the sacred rule: Go home at the end of the shift!
Jeff Dierking Jeff Dierking Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:06:33 PM I believe we need a few things here. First of all, we all need to go through the same training that the police go through with regards to handling violent criminals. Secondly, we ALL need to be wearing at minimum a stab proof vest due to being in close quarters with these people, but I am all for some level of bullet proof vest. Thirdly, we need to go through the same training and certifications that las enforcement goes through in order to carry. I don't care if we are carrying lethal or non-lethal, but we should be carrying something. I want to go home at night, and am prepared to do whatever I can to make that happen. If this is another "tool" to make that happen, then I am all for it.
Keefe Norton Keefe Norton Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:13:36 PM We have been taught in school during the scene safety instruction. There has been times in certain neighborhoods while on a call to a gang shooting that the shooters came back, opened the back of the ambulance and shot into the ambulance to finish the job. Was the medic shot? I don't know that information wasn't disclosed. Would the Medic have the chance to draw and fire back? Probably not but he should have the tools to protect himself and his patient and let the public know the medic may be armed.
James J Myers James J Myers Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:14:44 PM How about a Tazer? Non lethal and if anything it would make a drunk person think twice about being mouthy again.
Dan Hankey Dan Hankey Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:14:52 PM Volunteer provider in CNY was killed a few years ago by a psych pt that retreated into his bedroom and came back with a shotgun. I'm sure if he was carrying, and was properly trained to carry a firearm, that outcome would have been quite different. I still agree with the idea that if a situation seems sketchy, you should stage and wait for police. However, regardless of how the call was dispatched, unexpected things can happen. I know this from personal experience. I was dispatched to a "diabetic emergency" with visiting nurse staff already on location. I walk into the apartment, and find the patient pointing a gun at the firefighters already on location. Luckily it wasn't loaded. However, who knows what would have happened if it had been loaded.
Deric Breedlove Deric Breedlove Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:20:38 PM Im all for arming first responders. I firmly believe things in this country will continue to deteriorate untill our national leadership changes in favor of the common people. Civil security and public safety are growing thin because of cutbacks in municipalities budget. But in regards to self safety and the public safety, it soiled be required that any first responder should be subject to the same requirements of law enforcement with a certifiable firearm course and psychological exam prior to carrying a firearm on duty. I think it will be a great deterrent towards most individuals we see that act stupid in the field or has a history of being violent.
Jonathan Yonetani Jonathan Yonetani Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:26:43 PM I feel anyone has the right to protect themselves using whatever means necessary. Should EMT's and firefighters carry firearms? I think it should be left to personal choice.
Shol Ivano Shol Ivano Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:27:45 PM There has been MANY. Just one off the top of my head: Fire pulls up to a garage fire spreading to the home. They start pulling off hoses when the owner walked out and started shooting them. if I remember right 3 FF/Medics got hit. 2nd: EMS Unit turned a corner headed to station and had a brick thrown tru the wind shield and at same time man with shot gun leveled on them luckly it jammed. There are more. A lot never make the news but many Medics can share their incidents. But the gun is ONLY for a life and death deal. Tazer would work better for most.
Mark Koch Mark Koch Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:54:24 PM With the proper training, use, care, and know how to when it is appropriate to un holster your weapon then I firmly believe that we should be able to protect ourselves and our partners when a situation would arise that would require the use of deadly force. We should be able to protect ourselves just as much as the private citizen has the right to do.
James J Myers James J Myers Saturday, September 22, 2012 3:55:11 PM Then word would get around quick about how mean EMS is and maybe that'd cut down on most of the BS calls. >:)
Douglas Catlett Douglas Catlett Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:26:45 PM Police are not always avalilable. My city an county dosent always have 24/7 PD coverage and when the cops are on duty we have one in city and maybe one in county which does not take long for them to get to busy to respond
Matt Leskiw Matt Leskiw Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:27:57 PM I am a firm believer in the "Go home at the end of the shift" adage. Besides, I am not a cop don't wanna be one. I think we tend to look @ the job differently.
Corey Moorehead Corey Moorehead Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:28:58 PM It should be pretty obvious that I'd support this. I would feel a lot better if Miranda carried on squad.
Steve Peal Steve Peal Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:29:07 PM Nobody's rules or policies should over ride the 2nd Amend.
Lori Blattenberger Barnes Lori Blattenberger Barnes Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:33:49 PM Taser guns yes! Real guns no.
Brenda Ricks Sedberry Brenda Ricks Sedberry Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:37:33 PM Very well said and I agree.
Larry Grabinski Larry Grabinski Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:43:36 PM I am very much for having the option of being armed if there is a valid need to be. However, there must be proper training in Use of Force and Weapons Retention before I would even consider it as a Manager... we all know those EMT's or Paramedics who think that the more crap you got on your belt or in your pockets is what makes you a good EMT/Paramedic - giving them a gun scares the heck out of me. I've been a long time believer when it comes to CCW is I don't ask, and don't give me a reason to ask cause then I have to act since it is a violation of State Law and Company Policy which requires termination. I also feel that there's a lot more to it that just allowing firearms - there has to be policy in place to protect the employee and the company, but do I think the time is here for this conversation - heck yes... in my local area the chances of needing this resource is very high. At the same time, a lot of us work in area's where there is NO need whatsoever to be armed on the truck... it needs to be service/location specific and up to the agency to allow it, but if the need exists there should be no barriers preventing it in place by the state or governing agency in the United States.
Larry Grabinski Larry Grabinski Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:51:08 PM You have a unique outlook on this in that you work in a country that has different outlooks on Firearms and Crime. I don't ever want to be a Cop again - been there, done that, burned out a long time ago - however, some of us are working in area's were the use of Body Armour (I think everyone of us should be wearing that already if you do 911 service), OC/Tasers and other "non-lethal" options are not practical. NO EMS provider should ever allow themselves to enter a situation were non-lethal means could be used on the Force Continuum, the concern and point at hand is that in those situations that go from Green to Black with no yellow or red (color coding for each step in the Standard Force Continuum) - we should have the means to protect ourselves, our partners, and maybe even our patients by returning fire when fired upon. The last thing I ever want to do is create another patient to care for, but I'd much rather make more work for myself than become a patient myself or not go home at the end of the shift.
Robert Dunn Robert Dunn Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:54:16 PM With the power to take ones life, comes great responsibility... Can EMS / FF display the ability to possess a firearm, sure. But in the same breath many don't. Not only does a armed person have to maintain a skill of marksmanship and legality; But, also has to be able to defend the weapon in situations that do not allow its use... With proper guidelines and training I could support the issue... Anyone can punch holes in paper, the skill to fight with a weapon is much more...
Larry Grabinski Larry Grabinski Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:54:21 PM 100% concur with you on the open carry issue... we already are confused too often by people thinking we're Law Enforcement and that's not my job. Use of a Firearm by a EMS Provider should be a last ditch effort used only when all other efforts to remove yourself safely from the situation have failed... in other words - if the principle of "feet don't fail me now" or "blessed mother of reverse acceleration" have failed!!!
Kimberly Alice Scott Kimberly Alice Scott Saturday, September 22, 2012 4:56:52 PM How about a safe compromise? Instead of bullet shooting guns, how about taser guns? It is easier to train EMS and Firefighters how to use and maintain a taser gun, and less dangerous as they can adjust the wattage. I understand why we are thinking seriously about arming our first responders, but why exasperate an already heated situation with the sight of a gun. Besides, in the back of an ambulance a bullet would ricochet and hit the suspect, the EMT, or the oxygen tank. To dangerous! I think a taser gun is the answer here.
Larry Grabinski Larry Grabinski Saturday, September 22, 2012 5:05:44 PM Again, Situational and there are some areas of Bay County and Saginaw County where I only feel safe with a IIIa Vest with Plate, a .40 and a .556, and preferably an A-10 in the sky overhead!!!! An Apache or Cobra gunship would be an acceptable second... or we could just stage in Midland and let the National Guard bring the patients to us...
Kellie Collins-Pickle Kellie Collins-Pickle Saturday, September 22, 2012 5:20:12 PM I have to agree. I put my life on the line and may not go home to my children because some person decided to stab me for trying to save his life.
Navarre Marshall Navarre Marshall Saturday, September 22, 2012 5:54:32 PM Both sides have good arguments and facts.
Bill Belcher Bill Belcher Saturday, September 22, 2012 6:23:43 PM I don't think that we should carry. Let the Police do their job so that you can concentrate on yours. I have been in many situations where having a gun would be detrimental. Like when I was surrounded by about 1000 people at the scene where the patient was struck by a vehicle in front of a Nightclub in a not very good part of the city. We had about a dozen cops on scene. Was the scene safe? No. The FD was there also and I made this a load and go. Why? There weren't enough cops there to handle the situation because I am sure that they were severely outgunned. Had I been carrying a sidearm I would have been expected to help with the crowd first instead of concentrating on getting the patient and then getting the heck out of there. The load and go wasn't because the patient was critical but because we needed to get out of there ASAP.
Keith Fronk Keith Fronk Saturday, September 22, 2012 6:24:21 PM No need to carry a firearm, carry a Tazer!
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:07:37 PM Oath? What oath? I never took an oath. I did however promise my wife that I would come home after every shift/.
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:09:27 PM Tasers ARE lethal, and sometimes ineffective.
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:12:10 PM Google "EMT shot" for a primer.
Jack Popadak Jack Popadak Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:13:34 PM touche. thanks 4 the feedback.
James J Myers James J Myers Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:17:34 PM To certain populations yes. But from a collateral damage stand point what if the EMS misses and hits a bystander? There is some limit on how far the taser can go (spelled it wrong a few times... oops).
Health Care Visions Health Care Visions Saturday, September 22, 2012 7:20:48 PM My thoughts,
Jon Lucas Jon Lucas Saturday, September 22, 2012 8:14:14 PM No way! People hear that EMS or Fire is carrying and pretty soon we'll be getting shot at. Usually you're better off if you can get your pt in the truck BEFORE the cops come around. When the police are on scene people clam up. They won't tell you what happened, they fake no hable, and sometimes they get aggressive! We have to be the life-savers and rescuers, not the bad-guy catchers and law enforcers!
Jack Popadak Jack Popadak Saturday, September 22, 2012 8:23:11 PM Hello All. Thanks for the input. After googling, Etc. many of the shootings that occurred were, off-duty or (in the printed words) a karma death. I did find in 3 separate incidents, 3 EMT's were shot. ALL were ambushed. As a tactical/medic & LT. Deputy for 10 years, in these incidents the victims would not have had a chance to defend themselves. Sad but true. It makes my heart hurt to read about these incidents. But I have yet to see an opportunity where carrying a weapon would have made a difference. Sign me, open minded-but not yet convinced. Please keep the information coming! Stay safe out there.
Ryan Newman Ryan Newman Saturday, September 22, 2012 9:12:23 PM some should have tasers and should some handguns.
Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea Sunday, September 23, 2012 3:34:52 AM Krav maga is it... But not a lot of instructors out here for this.
Timothy Frease Timothy Frease Sunday, September 23, 2012 5:35:11 AM I say you allow those who want to the right to conceal it. Be open with the public, and tell them about 50% of your people are armed, let the bad guys try to guess which 50% they are dealing with. I never had a situation working where I would have went to it, but it's weight slipped in a waistband sure would have been a comfort a lot of times.
Esther Coarse Esther Coarse Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:11:49 AM with proper training and screening, why not!
John Kayser John Kayser Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:28:03 AM it would be nice to see ems to be able to carry.. my main concern though is what if a pt gets the gun while in the back of the bus it could result in a lot of dangers.
Jason Winters Jason Winters Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:50:45 AM I agree that we should but we must have the training in the gun safety to know when to use it and when not to use it we all have to at least get certified to carry to show we have the training.
Philip Cook Philip Cook Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:01:29 PM I do not think there should be anything that prohibits having a concealed weapon on the rig. That being said, I have worked with and around many people who I barely trust not to get me into a bad situation just using their mouths. Give that persona weapon and I don't want to know what would happen. The main problem I see is all the secured facilities that we go into. Every hospital that I know of is posted no carry. Then there are the jails and psychiatric facilities. Then what do you do with your weapon. I would love to have a weapon while running around the hood but the logistics of what to do with it the rest of the time would make it a real pain.
Pascal Hay Pascal Hay Sunday, September 23, 2012 1:26:04 PM If you carry firearms while performing your duty you open up a can of liabilities that are not normally present. Showing up with a weapon will make you a target and a threat; you will no longer be a neutral party there to help. You have introduced a weapon into a scene that can now be taken from you and used on you. Statistics show that a large majority of law enforcement LODD’s are the result of the officer's weapon being used on them. A concealed carry permit is not going to cut it, you are going to have to be POST certified and every year recertify. Insurance is going to increase to cover the extra liability that will be incurred by the agency so any benefits you planed to get with that money will be gone. If you accidentally discharge the weapon or if you discharge it in self defense and strike a bystander or your stay round hits a third party then you can hang it up as far as your career or future goes. Can you live with the fact that someone beat you down and took your sidearm and then executed your partner with it? Don’t say that it can’t happen. You are focused on the patient and the care of that patient and someone sucker punches you and takes your weapon then starts pulling the trigger. It would last for all of about 6 – 10 seconds. There are times when weapons to defend you are needed. During the hurricanes EMS did have weapons. The difference is there was total anarchy and criminal attacks were rampant. Until the National Guard and law enforcement got the situation under control it was not safe with or without a weapon. Another point is that you while on duty are not an average citizen; you are a representative of the agency you work for. Your actions or lack of them places not only you but your agency in jeopardy.
Steve Rowland Steve Rowland Sunday, September 23, 2012 2:09:59 PM Agree with you Larry.
Pascal Hay Pascal Hay Sunday, September 23, 2012 2:23:20 PM I have been in a situation where we were working a shooting and someone came up and asked if he was going to make it? When told it looks like he is. The person pulled out a pistol and emptied the clip into the patient. Law enforcement then emptied theirs into the assailant. I guess if my partner and myself had weapons along with the fire crew that could have been about 90 more rounds to let fly.
Keefe Norton Keefe Norton Sunday, September 23, 2012 2:47:17 PM True usually there are cops at the scene but what if their not? Or what if someone just wants your narcs? Maybe someone decides since you have a job they want the money in your wallet and your narcs. There are many reasons for carrying and not carrying but I feel you should have the right to defend yourself.
George Gaines George Gaines Sunday, September 23, 2012 3:41:18 PM Hell no if you cant handle the heat then get the hell out.
Pascal Hay Pascal Hay Sunday, September 23, 2012 3:49:43 PM If they want my narcs or whatever else they can have it. I work for a government agency and the sheriff is always with us. When I was with a private provider it was not uncommon for me to find myself in the shady parts of town with just me and my partner. In that situation I would give them the keys to the truck and show them how to run the lights and sirens. In all the time I worked for private services I had one partner stabbed by an inpatient at a hospital who we were picking up to take to another hospital. While working for a public service I have had one partner shot. We were ambushed and it was the luck of the draw that he caught a round in the chest. If I would have been on that side of the truck it would have been me. In that situation a sidearm would have been useless as the guy was using a 30 cal from accross a distance that was out of range for a pistol.
John Manuel John Manuel Sunday, September 23, 2012 6:08:16 PM Being able to carry and knowing when and where to use it are the difference. Your job is to take care of the patient. But if need be i would rather have a way to defend myself.
Stephen Denise Litteken Clayton Stephen Denise Litteken Clayton Tuesday, September 25, 2012 7:30:00 PM If it came to arming EMS in my area, that would be my cue to leave. I would not consider carrying a weapon on duty.
Robert Hayes Robert Hayes Friday, September 28, 2012 5:50:55 AM After working 20 years at EMS in the field my answer would be yes! But it would be ridiculous and irresponsible to allow anyone to carry a hand gun without the proper training. Whether EMS wants to admit it or not we are involved in defusing dangerous scene events on a daily basis. There were times when I had nothing to protect us or the patient when law enforcement was not contacted or was unavailable at the time.
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Wednesday, October 17, 2012 4:38:47 PM
Alan W. Rose Alan W. Rose Friday, October 19, 2012 4:50:24 PM It amazes me that some people can expect firefighters to be proxy police (remember when DC wanted their FFers to do street corner patrol) yet others balk when the idea of arming FFers and EMS comes up because "we are not the police." Like having a gun automatically makes you a police officer. Then there's Homeland Security who has a bunch of shiny new armored cars labeled "POLICE/RESCUE." ( ) Yep the cat's out of the bag. EMS immunity from violence is a fantasy.
Jim Lowrance Jim Lowrance Friday, October 19, 2012 11:28:05 PM I fear for your life to Alan. I think of all the rescue friends in the past 45 years that were shot, stabbed, beat, and robbed and then there is you on my mind. Take good care of your self buddy. I've lost a few friends that were only trying to help in just domestic situations. Even Me. I am not a EMS but one night back in 1971, I heard a woman screaming behind my house. I ran out to the alley and saw a man on top of a woman slapping and punching her in the face. I'm the kind of person who can't just leave like alot of cowards do all the time. So I went up and grabbed this guy by his hair and jerked him backwards off of her and broke his nose many times as I hit him many times. Then I helped her up and before I straighten up he grabbed me and was hitting me in the back,"I thought", there was a church behind our house with a door that had a long door knob and I push him into that and he went down with a few kick's to the cranium. After my adrenaline wore off and the Law arrived (which was thirty minutes later) My mom noticed that I had blood on my back. Turns out that he had a small pocket knife and was stabbing me in the back with it. Ten times. So dude, stay safe and watch yours and your teams back.
Ryan Thorburn Ryan Thorburn Sunday, September 01, 2013 10:08:57 PM YES they should people can say ohh no guns are bad but the thing is there are a lot of bad people out there and they have guns so you know what people that say they shouldn't are just plain stupid.
Joseph Eriksen Joseph Eriksen Friday, August 08, 2014 10:14:10 AM Responded to a seriously injured and very intoxicated individual who pointed a gun at me and said get out of his house. I went outside and informed dispatch who told me law enforcement would be there in 30 to 40 minutes. At that point any gun I could have had would have been useless. But I still believe a 9mm is Advanced Life Support.
Michele Logue Michele Logue Friday, August 08, 2014 11:13:31 AM This is a n arguments hat
Kimberly Durba Kimberly Durba Friday, October 03, 2014 3:11:22 PM I would choose to arm ems with tazers first before guns and ammo. Or I would only allow one or two senior EMTs to be armed certainly not the young high school kids and collegians. The handgun user must be highly trained and fully responsible and competent in understanding what consequences their actions can have on them. They should be over age 25 and responsible.

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