When there’s a medical emergency in Centre County, Centre LifeLink paramedics are often on the call.
Now, LifeLink’s board is asking the Centre Region Council of Governments for new funds, not to pay for for life-saving training, but lethal weapons training for eight tactical paramedics.
They say it will teach them to protect themselves, and those they’re treating from danger.
“You don’t know that this is going to happen,” said Elliot Abrams, Chair, Patton Township Supervisors. “But if they are trained for this, they’re better equipped to be able to handle an emergency. They’re often the first responders.”
Abrams noted that paramedics would not be used as the primary response to a violent threat, but they would be a back-up.
“Let’s say that unfortunately a policeman is shot and incapacitated but the gun is there, you don’t want the criminal to come get it,” said Abrams. “You’d want it to be secured and not used in any case, but if the EMT is able to get it and has training, it’s more likely that the outcome will be less lethal or less hurtful than otherwise, if the person knows what they’re doing.”
Other local elected officials who chose not to appear on camera say they oppose offering the $10,000 needed for the training, because the odds of a situation where that training is needed are very small. And that money could be better spent elsewhere.
Those opposed also say that approval of the training could provide an avenue for more guns in the community, and create the potential for more violence.
It’s unclear if guns will ever actually be carried by paramedics if this training is approved, as the LifeLink board has not yet made a decision on whether they would allow tactical paramedics to carry firearms during calls.
There are also questions about how EMS could even carry a gun, since state laws don’t allow firearms in an ambulance.
But tactical paramedics do sometimes assist in potentially dangerous situations like serving a warrant, or dealing with hostages.
“Right now there’s no plan whatsoever to have them be carrying…and we wouldn’t expect that to happen,” said Abrams. “We hope that nothing happens, but I don’t think hoping that it doesn’t happen is the best way of planning.”
The Centre Region Council of Governments plans to officially vote on the funding request at a meeting later this month, or early next month.