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South Carolina bill proposes allowing first responders to carry firearms

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Should the people who fight the heat pack heat? That’s the question on the minds of state legislators who are debating whether to allow firefighters and other first responders to carry firearms during calls.

Currently it is illegal for emergency responders other than law enforcement to carry firearms, but the bill would change that for “emergency medical services providers, firefighters, or other first responders who are engaged in examining, treating or directing persons during an emergency and who are authorized to carry a concealed weapon…”

The bill, sponsored in part by Rep. Steven Long of Boiling Springs, said it is another way for first responders to stay safe on calls.

The amendment requires that firefighters and emergency workers who carry go through rigorous training before doing so.

Firefighters are lukewarm about the measure, however. On one hand, they said it will definitely help improve the safety and well-being of responders. Still, fire chiefs FOX Carolina spoke with said they also worry about the inherent dangers of firearms in the workplace.

“It’s a tough question,” said Chief Steve Alverson of Greenville’s Parker District Fire Department. “There are just a lot of concerns as far as everybody being able to carry.”

The bill specifies responders who carry will have to be trained, and Rep. Long said the intent is not for all first responders to have a firearm on scene.

“We are not talking about letting anyone carry a firearm,” said Long. “We are talking about people who have gone through the training.”

Fire chiefs said they would like the bill to be more specific.