Legislation will allow some auditors to carry concealed weapons; another proposal addresses EMTs

by Chad D. Baus

Lost in all of the sky-is-falling media coverage of the debate over restaurant carry legislation last month was news of passage of legislation that will allow some employees of the state auditor's office to carry concealed weapons.

From June 11 in the The Columbus Dispatch:

Carrie Bartunek, spokeswoman for Auditor Dave Yost, said four investigators in the auditor's office - all of whom are certified law-enforcement officers - will carry concealed weapons once the law takes effect.

The Ohio House approved changes Wednesday to House Bill 5, which focuses on adjusting fees in various courts across the state. The Ohio Senate added a provision requested by Yost to permit his investigators to carry weapons. This week's vote sent the bill to Kasich, who is expected to sign it.

The measure includes no limit on the number of investigators who can be armed; it allows as many as the auditor deems necessary.

Bartunek said the investigators track fraud and deal with potential criminal activities. They sometimes find themselves in dangerous situations, although she could point to no specific incident prompting the request.

"This is a safety precaution," she said. "They have to uphold the laws of the state of Ohio. ... They often find themselves in situations where people are not happy they are there."

During the House discussion on the bill, Rep. W. Carlton Weddington, D-Columbus, asked for examples of when an auditor's investigator might need to be armed.

Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, an attorney and sponsor of the bill, said people being investigated might become "angry and upset." He said investigators should be armed in volatile situations.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on June 23, and becomes effective September 23, 2011.

Legislation has also been proposed which would allow some Ohio emergency medical technicians could get the right to carry guns.

From the Med City News:

This seems to be an increasingly hot-button topic among EMTs, who raise the issue as they struggle to cope with rough neighborhoods, threatening onlookers, violent situations, and armed and unstable patients. Skeptics, meanwhile, point out that emergency scenes are cleared first by the police or dispatchers, and adding a gun to the EMT kit would unnecessarily expand the job and risk of emergency workers.

Ohio's legislation takes a narrow focus. House Bill 288 would give EMTs guns only when they went with SWAT teams. The law would also treat medical personnel like police in that they would have immunity from civil suits in connection with their use of guns when working with the SWAT team, said Republican Rep. Courtney Combs, the bill's sponsor.

"It's a bad situation if they call the SWAT team out," Combs said. "For the protection of the medical professionals, they should have the right to carry firearms."

That sounds about right to Dr. James Brown, chairman of the emergency medicine department at Wright State University's Boonshoft School of Medicine, which has a Division of Tactical Medicine to help first-responders deal with high-risk situations.

"Personally, I'm a fan of it but the concern is what's the [EMT's] motivation for being there? Is it just so you can carry a gun?" Brown said.

Brown acknowledged that there's some controversy in the field of tactical medicine over whether medics should be armed. Brown believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

"If they're armed for their own personal security, then that's a good idea,” Brown said. "If they're not armed, then the team has to task someone to be their security. Some teams are small and that winds up being problematic."

According to the article, EMTs wouldn't be required to carry a gun under the legislation. Rather, Rep. Combs is quoted as saying the decision would be left up to EMTs and the SWAT teams they work with.

Combs said the need for such a law was brought to his attention by his son-in-law, Dr. William Brady, an emergency physician in Kettering, Ohio, who sometimes works with the Warren County SWAT team.

The Ohio State Medical Association, the state's largest physicians' group, hasn't taken a position on the legislation, a spokesman said. The president of the Ohio Association of Emergency Medical Services wasn't available for comment. Combs said he hadn't yet consulted with the emergency services group, but plans to contact interested parties within the next few months.

The article concludes by noting that it's unclear how many, or if any, states have similar laws. A spokeswoman for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians told Med City it advocates at a federal level and isn't involved in state legislation.

Rep. Combs said the bill hasn't been assigned to a committee and no hearings will be scheduled until Ohio lawmakers return from their break in September.

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