CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — A bill proposed in the West Virginia House of Delegates would supply firefighters and EMS crews with a new piece of equipment.
The bill would allow them to carry guns, if passed by lawmakers and signed into law. It would also require the crews to go through the proper training to carry, as well as allow the opportunity for reimbursement for the training.
House Bill 2720 was proposed by Delegates Pethtel, Lovejoy, Shott, Boggs, Paynter and Harshbager.
Del. Dave Pethtel, who represents Wetzel County, is the lead sponsor of the bill. He says first responders have come to him within the county expressing some of their concerns about the scenes they sometimes face when responding to emergencies.
Pethtel says in small, rural areas, a lot of time EMS crews are the first to arrive at an emergency, not knowing what they will face. That's different than bigger counties, where law enforcement are typically the first to arrive.
Pethtel says part of the bill would give department supervisors the authority to decide whether they would allow members to carry.
Gordon Merry, director of Cabell County EMS, says he is half and half on the bill.
"I can understand some of the rural areas where law enforcement may be hours away. It could be a different situation," Merry said. "But for us, I have law enforcement. I have Huntington Police, Milton, Barboursville, Marshall, West Virginia State Police, the Sheriff's Department. We are very lucky around here to have good police protection."
Merry says if given the option, he would not allow paramedics to carry. But he understands the benefits it would provide to smaller areas in West Virginia.
"When we show up, we are there to provide care to a patient. I worry about the paramedic and EMT focusing solely on the patient. That's their job. I don't want to escalate a situation by having a firearm. If I pull the firearm, now I've escalated it. Now what am I going to do? I think it puts you in a very difficult position," Merry said.
The bill passed a second reading Tuesday and will be up for a third reading in the House Wednesday. It would then move to the Senate for their approval.
To read a full copy of the bill, tap here.