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VA first responders may soon carry guns on duty in new sweeping state law

Man With A Gun (Clinger Holsters/Flickr)
January 29, 2019

New legislation passed the Virginia state senate on Tuesday that would allow Virginia firefighters and paramedics to carry a concealed firearm when they are at work.

SB 1012, introduced by Republican State Sen. Amanda Chase, would permit first responders to carry a concealed weapon “provided that such firefighter or person employed as emergency medical services personnel has been approved to carry a concealed handgun by his fire chief or emergency medical services chief,” CBS 6 News reported.

The 21-19 senate vote passed the measure, which will move forward to the state house.

Sen. Chase sparked debate when she openly wore a .38 revolver on her hip to work after immigration activists harassed her colleague for introducing a bill that would ban sanctuary cities, according to The Hill.

She said the incident was troubling and the following day she began openly carrying her gun.

“I’ve had threats. I’ve had stalkers since I’ve been in the General Assembly. I am going to continue to represent the issues that are important to my constituents, and I’m not going to be intimidated by people who would try to physically harm me,” Chase said.

Current laws in Virginia allow first responders to carry a concealed weapon, but “it’s usually a policy or procedure of that locality that they don’t. That’s still on the table – every locality can decide for themselves,” she added.

SB 1012 would require first responders to take the necessary steps to acquire their concealed-carry permits. Carrying their gun while on duty would require clearance from their superiors. They would also have to complete an initial training course and yearly courses, WSAZ News 3 reported.

Chase’s daughter is a paramedic, so she knows the dangers that can be involved in their jobs.

“My daughter was actually staging an event. She had someone come up to her window and tap on her window. There was a hostage situation going on. There was no one at the ambulance where she was staging – no one there to protect her,” Chase said.

Chase added that it is very common for firefighters and paramedics to arrive at situations before the police can.

“We are exposing our volunteers to unknown situations. A lot of times they don’t know what they’re walking into,” Chase said.

Chase’s proposal has a lot of support from fire chiefs.

Amelia County Company No. 1 Fire Chief Justin Wargofcak said, “Once instance I can think of – I called myself along with other firefighters to set up a landing zone for the Med Flight helicopter responding to a shooting victim. Two of the suspects had fled on foot in the area armed with guns. We did not have any law enforcement security due to it being in a rural area and all the resources were at the scene of the incident. If anyone would have tried to stop or attack us, we would have not had a way to protect ourselves.”

Ceredo Fire Chief Dave Caudill also supports the bill and said, “On more than one occasion I’ve had a knife pulled on me inside a house with basically nowhere to escape to. It’s a very dangerous world out there and you really never know what you’re going to get into.”

He added, “Just because you’re there to help, doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the best treatment in the world. One of my fears is that my people will walk into some type of gun battle between two rival drug groups.

Regarding carrying a gun while on duty, Caudill said, “It’s not for everybody to do, but the ones who have the ability and have the training. ” It would be a way to protect our people and also to protect the public.”