Why some lawmakers want to allow trained paramedics to carry weapons
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Why some lawmakers want to allow trained paramedics to carry weapons

EMS News, Training

Why some lawmakers want to allow trained paramedics to carry weapons

Michael D. Pitman

        Staff Writer

3:48 p.m Friday, Feb. 16, 2018

    If Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs House Bill 79, then paramedics and other medical professionals assigned to a SWAT team in Ohio can optionally carry a firearm after completing training and receiving authorization from a local law enforcement agency.

    Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, has attempted to pass this legislation for the past three years, and he re-introduced the bill last February with Ohio Rep. Christine Hagan, R-Marlboro Twp.

    The bill allows tactical medical professionals — who are emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses or doctors trained and certified in a nationally recognized tactical program, like SWAT — to carry firearms while on duty. The bill specifies that these first responders must have already received firearms training and be authorized to carry a firearm by the law enforcement agency with which they are associated.

    It is also an optional opportunity, Retherford said.

    “By ensuring that these tactical medical professionals can carry when responding with a SWAT team, we give them additional tools necessary to protect thems and their patients in the field,” he said. “These men and women are heroes and deserve every tool possible to ensure they can successfully perform their duties.”

    The bill received wide sponsorship support with 76 lawmakers co-sponsoring the bill from the House and Senate. It received near-unanimous support in voting with a 92-2 majority in the Ohio House and a 31-0 majority in the Ohio Senate. It is also a similar bill to what former Republican state lawmaker Courtney Combs introduced when he last represented the Ohio House district.

    Brent Abdelnour, a firefighter/paramedic with Liberty Twp. Fire Department and Butler County SWAT, testified last year before the House and Senate committees considering the bill. He said going into a situation unarmed requires protection during operations creating undue stress on manpower, which is already in short supply.

    “Military and tactical operations over several decades has supplied the medical community with an abundance of data that inevitably leads to the same conclusion: having medically trained personnel nearby saves lives,” Abdelnour said.

    Hagan joined as Retherford’s joint sponsor for the bill because her brother is a paramedic serving on an Ohio SWAT team.

    “When my brother leaves northeast Ohio to serve here in Columbus nearly every other day, as his family, we often contemplate his safety and ability to protect himself and others when operating alongside his colleagues in a tactical fashion during difficult and dangerous situations,” she said. “These medical professionals train shoulder to shoulder with their peers on the professional SWAT teams.”

    Hagan said she is “confident” the requirements and guidelines outlined in the bill “will create certainty and clarity for local administrations” who are hesitant about allowing medical personnel in tactical situations to be armed.


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