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Paramedics Packing Heat? One Texas Lawmaker Says Yes

COOKE COUNTY (CBS 11 NEWS) - Cooke County EMS near Denton covers about 900 square miles and most of it is rural.

"There are potential out there for things to occur," says Kevin Grant Cooke County Emergency Medical Services Director.

He's talking about paramedics being put in dangerous situations when they respond to a scene where they may not know the person's mental state.

Grant says his crews often respond to calls alone and are potentially vulnerable.

State Representative Ken King from the Panhandle says the solution could be arming paramedics.

If passed, King's bill would allow EMS in counties with fewer than 50,000 people, like Cooke, to carry guns.

"For me, I think that would be where I would look at this bill and go this makes sense when we are in the middle of nowhere," says Grant, "and something occurs on scene."

Grant says if paramedics know they are going to a violent home then they usually wait for the sheriff's department to secure the scene and then arrive.

Tuesday representatives from MedStar which covers Tarrant County spent the day in Austin talking to lawmakers about the bill.

"We don't necessary want to introduce a weapon on ourselves into a scene that quite frankly may be used against us or someone else at the scene," says Matt Zavadsky with MedStar.

The bill doesn't affect Fort Worth responders now, but MedStar is concerned it will eventually.

"We believe that as good corporate citizens, as good citizens of the community, we need to help our legislative officials make good decisions," explains Zavadsky. "We believe that if the state wants to enable communities to make that a local decision, that's OK. But it really needs to be driven based on the local community desires their emergency medical services providers to be able carry."

In Cooke County the idea is winning support, but Grant insists training would have to be key.

"If you are going to put paramedics – EMT'S - in that position, they need to have advance training not just a 10 hour CHL course," says Grant. "I think you will also have to have policy and procedures in place to where - how are you going to secure the handgun if you have agitated patient -maybe mental ill patient in the back of the ambulance, because it's such close quarters."

The bill has been referred to the Homeland Security Committee.

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