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Ambulance workers seek gun protection
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Guns seem to be the topic of discussion these days, including at the Warren County Ambulance Service.
Director Brian Jennings met with members of the county’s Safety Committee and said some of his employees are wondering if they will be allowed to legally carry guns on the job.
“I personally see a tremendous difference with someone with a permit who uses that on their own time and someone who comes to work with a gun strapped to their leg,” said County Executive John Pelham. “I’m pro guns. I believe in the right to carry a gun, but I’m against ambulance workers carrying guns until we learn more about the issue.”
Jennings said there are currently no policies in Tennessee which permit EMS workers to carry guns. He did say there are a few policies which prohibit EMS workers from carrying guns.
The discussion follows two killings in which gunmen ambushed emergency personnel. On Dec. 16 in Missouri, a man shot and killed a deputy while ambulance workers were loading an unconscious man into an ambulance. The shooter ambushed the emergency personnel, including the ambulance workers, when they responded to the call.
On Christmas Eve in Webster, N.Y., a man set fire to his home, then killed two firefighters and injured two others when they responded to the call. One of the men killed was both a volunteer firefighter and a lieutenant on the local police force.
Former McMinnville Fire Chief Kevin Lawrence said during a separate economic development meeting, “Being in emergency services for 30 something years, I can see the ambulance service point of view because they go out a lot in the middle of the night a lot of times to the middle of nowhere. They don’t know exactly what they are going to roll up on. I know in certain cases 911 can warn EMS workers, especially on a domestic assault when weapons are involved. In something like that, they will hold back a little bit until law enforcement can get there. But sometimes the law might be tied up and they have to go in. It can be a sticky situation.”
Lawrence continued, “There needs to be a lot of thought given to it, especially to who can be issued weapons. There are people out there who can handle them, know how to handle them and know when to unholster them. There are others who will shoot at the tip of the hat just to do it.”
Commissioner Ron Lee said, “My concern is when a call goes out and we send ambulance crew into a dangerous situation, what would the procedure be?”
“We stay out until law enforcement says it is OK,” said Commissioner Teddy Boyd. “A few years ago I brought up the motion to buy bullet-proof vests for EMS workers. We were on Starlight Road working on a patient and someone had stolen a car and he started shooting. Also, a few years back, we went to a car wreck because a guy had shot a girl in the front seat and when the crew approached the car, he had a loaded handgun in the front seat of the car.”
Jennings asked the committee, “What is the liability? Where does insurance stand? Would Sheriff Matheny deputize EMS workers in order for them to carry a gun?”
Pelham said these were all points to investigate. The committee decided to investigate the liability and look at different scenarios before moving forward on the issue.