Should firefighters and EMS carry concealed while on-duty? - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Should firefighters and EMS carry concealed while on-duty?

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WSIL -- Lawmakers in Tennessee and Virginia could soon allow Firefighters and ambulance workers to carry concealed while on duty. The only requirement outlined in the legislation they're considering, is for anyone those who will carry to successfully complete eight hours of firearm training each year.

News 3 talked with a local fire chief who'd like to see a similar measure passed in Illinois. Robert Beal, the Chief at the Jefferson County Fire Protection District explained firefighters and EMS personnel don't just respond to fires, they respond to a broad range of emergencies and sometimes don't feel safe. 

At the Jefferson County Fire Protection District, the firefighters are also EMS. Chief Beal says this small department covers 220 square miles and often makes it to the scene of an emergency before a police officer, "By the time we get there, to the time an officer gets there, you don't know what will happen."

During the day,  there are three firefighters on duty. But overnight, it's just one person responding to calls until volunteers arrive as backup.

Beal says it's rare, but there are times these first responders show up on scene and don't feel safe.

"If they want to see what we go through, come on up here and go out on emergency call at two in the morning out in the boondocks and you're there by yourself," said Beal. 

Beal showed News 3 bulletproof vests given to the department by Illinois State Police in case of an active shooter situation. He says the vests are on hand for that worst-case scenario and any other time firefighters feel they are in danger. 

Representative Terri Bryant says she'd support a measure allowing firefighters and EMS to concealed carry and believes Illinois lawmakers should discuss it with police and fire chiefs across the state. 

"As I am an advocate for concealed carry, I'm also an advocate for having a broader approach to who is allowed to carry," said Bryant. 

Beal says there is a need and explained his first hand experience that makes him support carrying while on-duty, "You hear this shotgun and I'm like 'Oh boy.' That was as close as I've been, that's as close as I want to be, especially without something to protect me."

A bill hasn't been proposed in Illinois yet but Bryant said if lawmakers are discussing stripping second amendment rights in the state, it's only fair they talk about strengthening them, too.

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