Firefighters find themselves in many dangerous situations while working and they’re not all because of fires. In fact, there is a growing and ugly trend of individuals attacking first responders, including firefighters, on emergency calls. Should they be allowed to carry a gun to protect themselves and the public?
In most of the United States, firefighters are not permitted to carry guns while on duty. But this is changing in some states and the issue around firefighters carrying guns is not a simple one to figure out.
Let’s take a closer look at this issue and hear both sides of the discussion. Take a look.
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Can Firefighters Carry Guns?
At this moment in time, firefighters in the United States are not, generally speaking, permitted to carry guns or other firearms while on duty.
This is, however, developing into something of a contentious issue, as there has been a large increase in the number of attacks on emergency responders, including firefighters.
There are exceptions to this rule and, for example, a law in Kansas was passed in 2016, which allows both EMTs and firefighters to carry while on the job.
There are other states at various points along the way to legalize the right of EMTs and firefighters to carry while on duty too.
In California city, Firefighters can carry firearms as well, take a look:
Also read: Can Firefighters Have Tattoos? It Depends…
Should Firefighters Carry Firearms?
It is important to note that we are not taking a position here, but rather laying out the arguments for and against firefighters being permitted to carry firearms.
The Arguments Against Firefighters Carrying Guns
There are many good arguments against firefighters carrying firearms or guns while on duty including:
- Guns are heavy. Sure, a gun is not so heavy to stop a police officer from doing their duty but a police officer doesn’t need to carry a firefighter’s turnout gear to do their job. Given that this can weigh up to 70 lbs. by itself, is it a good idea to add more weight “just in case”? This argument can also apply to the use of body armor.
- Firefighters are meant to save lives not to take them. This can, of course, be interpreted as an argument for carrying weapons on duty too. After all, if a firefighter responds to a scene with an individual who is violent, they might be better placed to serve the public if that individual were neutralized. However, as an over-riding point of principle, guns are more often used to take lives rather than save them.
- The potential conflict with other gun safety regulations. Firefighters need to learn a lot of skills in order to carry out their work to a high standard. Is it a good idea to expect them to learn both gun safety and all the associated laws around them?
- The possibility that guns might make a scene more dangerous. The sight of a gun might bring out the worst in a member of the public and transform a peaceful scene into a dangerous one.
- The need for additional training. If firefighters carry guns they will need to be trained in their use and there will need to be training for officers in the strategic use of firearms within the fire service. This will come at a cost and may distract from other work within the fire department.
- Some individuals will not want to carry a firearm. If firefighters start to carry guns, will all firefighters have to carry them? What if an individual is morally opposed to doing so?
The Arguments For Firefighters Carrying Guns
There are also strong arguments in favor of carrying guns while on duty including:
- The Second Amendment. Should firefighters be denied their constitutional right to bear arms when they are on duty? This is, of course, a legal minefield and we’re not claiming to know the ins and outs of constitutional law here.
- The right to self-defense. Why should any firefighter or EMT have to endure a physical assault or worse while they carry out their job?
- The ability to protect the public. It’s not just firefighters who get attacked at the scenes of emergencies, would guns enable firefighters to better serve the public?
This is, of course, a complex issue and there will be many arguments and debates over which route the fire services should take regarding carrying firearms.
Fortunately, these discussions are above our current pay grade, so, we’ll wait to see what arises and where and then adapt as necessary.
Here is another look at this issue:
Are There Armed Firefighters?
Yes, while firefighters in civilian life including those who fight wildfires do not tend to carry guns or firearms, there is one group of firefighters that are armed all the time – military firefighters.
These firefighters carry out similar duties to regular firefighters in the main, they are there to fight fires, respond to medical emergencies, and occasionally clean up spills of hazardous materials.
They may also be called upon to assist with civilian fire departments if major incidents occur.
However, all members of the armed forces may also be called to fight if necessary and this includes support personnel such as firefighters, thus, they are armed as a matter of course.
Some would point to the existence of military firefighters as a strong argument in favor of arming civilian firefighters, but we would note that ordinary civilians are not used to taking orders or being in the presence of armed men and the two situations are not necessarily comparable.
Do Army Firefighters See Combat?
All Army Firefighters attend the same level of basic combat training as all other members of the army and this lasts for 10 weeks.
They don’t train army firefighters in combat for nothing, and it is possible that an army firefighter might, in certain situations, be called upon to fight.
This is not the main thrust of their duties, however, and it is also possible for an army firefighter to go their entire career without ever being asked to engage with an enemy.
Some say that an army firefighter’s life can be better than a civilian’s due to the benefits are given to members of the armed forces.
What Military Branch Is Best For Firefighters?
Given that we’re not in any branch of the armed forces, we haven’t got any personal experience of military firefighting to call upon.
However, the vast majority of firefighters in the military seem to be in the Navy and the Air Force, so if you’re sure that you want to join the military to become a firefighter, it’s likely that these two service branches will offer more opportunity.
From this Quora discussion, we can see that there are a lot of people out there that feel the best firefighting branch of the military is the Navy due to the nature of the Navy’s work.
Navy firefighters will be required to be armed as they conduct their duties.
Can EMTs Carry Guns?
In most states, it is not legal for EMTs to carry guns while on duty though some states have passed legislation allowing first responders of all stripes to carry firearms now.
However, there’s a broad ground level feeling of support that EMTs and paramedics ought to be able to carry guns given the increasing threats to them in the field.
But, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of strong feeling in the profession that EMTs and other medical staff ought to “do no harm” and instead of carrying weapons, they should rely on police officers to support them in dangerous times.
Again, we are not offering an opinion as to which side in this debate is correct, we’re just highlighting the controversial nature of the conversation.
Can Paramedics Carry Guns?
Paramedics are, of course, in a similar boat to EMTs and in the vast majority of the United States, paramedics are not permitted to carry guns while on duty.
Again, this is changing in certain states and Texas and Kansas both allow paramedics to carry guns while on duty.
Do SWAT Medics Carry Guns?
SWAT medics are often the subject of specific legislation which allows them to carry weapons even if other first responders are unable to do so.
For example, in Green, Ohio, a tactical paramedic may carry a handgun when asked to assist a SWAT team.
And in Florida, Ron DeSantis, in 2019, signed a law allowing medical personnel assigned to SWAT duties to carry firearms too.
However, we should note that many companies dedicated to providing medical services are resistant to this idea and, for example, Sunstar Paramedics and its parent company in Florida, have declined to allow their medics to carry when on SWAT duties.