Pro Bono: Allowing EMS to Carry Concealed Weapons Raises Legal Questions - Administration and Leadership - @ JEMS.com


Pro Bono: Allowing EMS to Carry Concealed Weapons Raises Legal Questions

If allowed at the state level, carrying concealed weapons while on duty opens up a host of other questions

 

 
 
 

Douglas Wolfberg JD, EMT | Steve Wirth, Esq., EMT-P | From the June 2013 Issue | Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Recently, a fire/EMS agency in Ohio (see “Paramedics Packing Heat,” p. 16) began allowing its personnel to carry concealed weapons while on duty. Media reports indicate that this policy was adopted in response to the deadly ambush of firefighters in Webster, N.Y., on Christmas Eve and an April incident that occurred in Georgia in which a man held responding personnel hostage before being shot and killed by the police. This month, we examine the legal ramifications of carrying concealed weapons on the job in EMS.

First and foremost, before implementing any policy, your agency must look at your state’s concealed weapons laws. Some laws specify whether employers can prohibit or must permit employees to carry permitted concealed weapons while on duty. In general, most state laws permit the employer to restrict or prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on duty. Some state laws, however, provide that the employee must be allowed to keep their concealed weapons in their cars, even if parked on the employer’s property, and even if they use their personal vehicles for work. In any event, it is important that any policy regarding concealed weapons in the workplace be consistent with the conceal/carry laws in effect in your state, county and/or city.

Second, check your state’s EMS laws, regulations and policies to see if they address the carrying of weapons by EMS personnel or on board an ambulance. For instance, in Pennsylvania, state EMS regulations prohibit the carrying of weapons on board an ambulance and prohibit EMS personnel from carrying them. These specific laws regulating ambulance services and EMS agencies would likely trump any general conceal/carry laws.

After considering your state’s laws on the subject, your agency then has to evaluate the merits of permitting your personnel to carry concealed weapons on duty. Although reports of assaults on EMS personnel are certainly not rare, the use or threat of deadly force against EMS providers is, thankfully, rare. Examples like the hostage situation in Georgia are also uncommon. EMS personnel are trained in how to respond to threats and in response techniques, including physical and chemical restraint. Generally, EMS training and applicable standards of care for managing difficult or violent patients in EMS doesn’t include the use of firearms to threaten or subdue a patient, or the use of deadly force by EMS providers. In other words, unless state law provides specific legal protections or immunity in this situation (which most do not), an EMS agency could well be opening itself up to tort liability for any harm or injuries to a patient, a bystander or anyone else caused by weapons carried by EMS personnel on duty.

And, of course, there’s always a threat that a weapon will end up being used against the EMS providers themselves, particularly since EMS providers may not be able to guard or secure their weapons at all times due to the normal distractions that come with providing patient care. It isn’t difficult to perceive a situation in which a violent patient could take a weapon from an EMS provider, which could have very unfortunate consequences.

  • Allowing personnel to carry weapons on duty would also open up a host of other questions, such as:
  • What type of weapons may be carried?
  • How does the EMS agency ensure that the personnel have appropriate permits and verify that they are kept current?
  • How does the agency verify the training that the personnel have received on the use of firearms?
  • How does the agency verify that the weapons are in proper working order.
  • How and where are the weapons secured when personnel must remove them for operational or patient care purposes?

Adopting a policy to permit carrying weapons is one thing; dealing with all of the unforeseen ramifications is another.
The carrying of concealed weapons by on-duty EMS personnel—if it is allowed at all—must be done only after careful consideration of your state firearms laws, EMS regulations, immunity statutes, and training and safety concerns. EMS standards of care don’t include the use of firearms when providing patient care, so unless state law grants specific immunity for their use, bear in mind that your agency may be opening itself up for more liability than it bargained for in the event that injuries or deaths are caused by a weapon carried on duty by EMS personnel.




Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Administration and Leadership, guns, violence, violence against EMS, concealed carry gun permits, Bethel Township Ohio, self-defense, scene safety, scene safe mantra, Gwinnett County hostage, Webster Shooting, Jems Priority Traffic

 
Author Thumb

Douglas Wolfberg JD, EMT Doug Wolfberg is an EMS attorney and founding partner of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth. He has previously worked as an EMS field provider, EMS educator, county EMS director, and EMS administrator at the state and federal levels.

BROWSE FULL BIO & ARTICLES >

Author Thumb

Steve Wirth, Esq., EMT-Pis a founding partner of Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, LLC. Steve is an active EMS provider and firefighter, and a national EMS speaker and a member of the JEMS and EMS Insider editorial board. He can be reached at swirth@pwwemslaw.com.

BROWSE FULL BIO & ARTICLES >

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Car Strikes Manhattan Pedestrians

Seven people hurt when car jumps curb.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >