Lawmakers in Ohio are debating a bill to allow tactical medics to carry a sidearm on the job. The bill so far has almost unanimous support in the state’s Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, with three Democrats voicing support for the Republican-sponsored bill.
The laws on arming tactical medics vary from state to state, but the question of whether paramedics should carry sidearms has come up more often in recent years, especially after high-profile incidents like the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California and Orlando, Florida. The legislation is House Bill 79, titled, “Providing for firearms training for tactical medical professionals.”
History of Combat Medicine
Battlefield medics have been around for centuries and are part of the reason why tactical medics and combat medics are so effective today. The King’s Doctor was always on hand during Medieval times in case the king or any of the nobility were wounded. Of course, in those days, the medical treatment itself was more likely to kill the patient. Even if the king survived, infection was likely to get him later. Combat medics in Vietnam taught us that rapidly transporting the wounded to a better place for care increased survival rates dramatically.
During the War on Terror, survival rates increased even more thanks to the work and research of combat medics. Controlling hemorrhaging wounds in the arms and legs, as well as aggressive airway management, reduced the combat fatality rate (CFR) to 9.4 percent, compared to the 19.1 percent rate in World War II.
Major Changes in Tactical Law Enforcement
The huge casualty rates in modern mass shootings have resulted in many law enforcement agencies changing the way they approach these incidents. One major shift, at least in some states, is that law enforcement encourages the closest “assets” to go after the bad guys. Waiting for the SWAT team to arrive before dealing with a hostage situation makes sense, but in an active shooter situation, waiting around for SWAT can get more bystanders killed. More law enforcement agencies now plan for “whoever gets there first” to go ahead and engage the shooter. Of course, they have to be armed to do that!
The other major shift in law enforcement is that many SWAT units now include a tactical medic. Depending on the laws in each state, however, the medic may or may not be armed. The Ohio GOP hopes to remedy that with House Bill 79.
Role of a Tactical Medic
Tactical medics don’t charge into the thick of things as you might think from their title. If they do go into the hot zone, they tend to bring up the rear behind the rest of the SWAT team. Tactical medics act as more of a liason between SWAT and EMS paramedics. The tactical medic will attend pre-mission briefings and then help stage ambulances in a safe zone so they can deploy as quickly as possible once the shooter is dead or captured and the scene is secured. The tactical medic then escorts the ambulances in if they’re needed.
Hundreds of SWAT missions play out every year in America just like this and in the vast majority, no shots are ever fired. But in the event that an officer or civilians are wounded, then the tactical medic is usually the closest to the hot zone and may be required to jump into action.
House Bill 79 would allow tactical medics to carry a sidearm after going through extensive training with their local law enforcement. A really nice thing about the bill is that it allows the medic’s training to then count as a concealed carry permit, so they can also carry when they’re off duty. Regular paramedics still wouldn’t be allowed to carry on duty.
Ricky Fetter, a SWAT medic in Parma, Ohio, supports House Bill 79 and told the CBS station in Cleveland, “We have to be able to defend ourselves. I think people are starting to realize that in today’s world. It’s very dangerous.”
Texas passed a law earlier this year that allows all paramedics and volunteer firefighters to carry concealed. House Bill 79 in Ohio is another sign that lawmakers and citizens are gaining ground in the battle over our gun rights. More concealed carry citizens is always a good thing!
~ American Gun News