Southern IL first responders weigh-in on carrying firearms - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Southern IL first responders weigh-in on carrying firearms

(Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS) (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

Violence against firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians has sparked nationwide debates over whether those workers should be allowed to carry firearms to emergency calls.

An Arkansas firefighter called to a report of a person having a seizure was shot and killed on Jan. 22, according to the Associated Press. The homeowner has since been charged in that killing.

Firefighters and emergency personnel in Dayton, Ohio said they want to be allowed to carry firearms on the job, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Chief Ted Lomax of the Carbondale, Illinois Fire Department said his department won't be allowing that any time soon.

“I can’t imagine why you would need to,” Lomax said. “We live in a very safe community so it’s nothing that crosses our minds.”

Lomax is a 26-year-veteran of the Carbondale Fire Department. He said bullets and fighting fires don’t mix and if help is needed people should call law enforcement.

“We’re not going to put our firefighters in harms way when it comes to that,” Lomax said. “The police officers, that’s their job and they’re trained to do that so we let them do their job.”

Carbondale does have several arson investigators that on occasion carry firearms when investigating a suspicious fire. However, those investigators receive firearm training through the police academy.

“Be aware of your surroundings," Lomax said. "If you don’t feel safe, if you think someone’s threatening you, involve the police."

Southern Illinois University Carbondale student Will Rolon said he thinks firefighters should be armed,

“If they have to defend themselves then I think it’s necessary,” Rolon said.

Justin O’Sullivan from New Jersey suggested a non-lethal approach.

“I would definitely support non-lethal weapons such as guns that contain rubber bullets for example,” O’Sullivan said.

“I don’t think it’s completely necessary," SIUC student Ben Handler said. "You know, if you call 911, the police are showing up."

 “If we’re giving anybody guns, firefighters are some of the most trusted people,” SIUC student Luke Farley said.

The City of Mount Vernon, Illinois has a policy against employees, with exception to police officers, carrying firearms while on duty, according to Mount Vernon’s Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Sargent.

“Maybe down the road there may be a discussion about it,” Sargent said.

“Our working relationship with our [police] department is tremendous. That’s probably why we haven’t had that discussion.”

Emergency medical personnel are meant to save lives not take them, Sargent said.

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