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New FL law allows paramedics to carry guns starting July 1

Firefighter Paramedics William Strickland and Steven Ames assist a simulated burn victim during a mass casualty drill at Naval Branch Health Clinic Mayport. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick J. Cook)
June 13, 2019

On July 1, a new Florida law will make it legal for paramedics and physicians involved in SWAT operations to carry a weapon when they are responding to volatile and high-risk calls.

On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill that will make EMS safer by authorizing a means of protecting themselves in incidents involving shootings, drugs, suicidal individuals, hostages, and more, CNN reported Monday.

The new law says it “exempts certain licensed medical professionals from specified provisions concerning the carrying of firearms; requiring certain policies and procedures for law enforcement agencies; providing such professionals have no duty to retreat in certain circumstances; providing immunities and privileges for such professionals.”

The law gives paramedics the same privileges as law enforcement in high-risk scenarios “including but not limited to, hostages incidents, narcotics raids, hazardous surveillance, sniper incidents, armed suicidal persons, barricaded suspects, high risk felony warrant service, fugitives refusing to surrender, and active shooter incidents.”

“The ability to initiate first aid right then and there saves lives,” Deputy Chief Kevin Herndon, Martin County Fire Rescue said. “Because of the environment they are in, potentially, they might have to protect themselves, fellow officers or the civilians they’re treating.”

Not all EMS workers will qualify to carry a gun on the job.

“There is a gun range component, there’s a physical agility component, there’s interviews,” Herndon said.

Prior to paramedics being permitted to carry a weapon, they must undergo a yearly firearm safety training and tactical training course, and must obtain a weapons carry permit.

“It just helps us out in the long run because it shortens the process of which we can now have our SWAT medics on our team right there side by side working together,” Lt Ruben Romero, Martin County SWAT team leader told WPTV.

He added, “It’s going to allow us as law enforcement agencies and medical services to render aid a lot quicker. You want to have the best aid for your officers and the people involved in these situations as quickly as possible.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Chiefs of Police Association also supported the bill, arguing medics shouldn’t be left defenseless.

Currently, Kansas and Ohio have emergency responder firearm laws, and Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia have proposed similar bills.

In May, DeSantis signed a bill that allows teachers to carry guns on campus, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission endorsed it following safety concerns left from the Parkland massacre.