Wednesday, September 07 2005
Sitting in the day room last week, I couldn’t help but wonder at the outrage and disbelief expressed by many of my co-workers when CNN announced that someone was sniping at EMS in New Orleans. If you missed it, it’s all in their article, Sniper fire halts hospital evacuation.
Outrage? Absolutely. Asshat snipers. But disbelief? Not if you’re over thirty.
Ah, this starry-eyed generation! Snipers were a big problem in the LA riots of April, ’92, after the Rodney King verdict. A favorite tactic being to set up on a rooftop across from your arson, then pick off the responding firemen. So, yeah, there were a bunch of people being total asshats.
Skip back a couple of years and riots, 1968, in Trenton and Washington DC, where the weapon du jour was bricks thrown at fire fighters. “Oh, bricks,” you say. Hey, a brick is damned heavy. They still stone people to death in some places. Again, a bunch of people being total asshats.
And forget about the August ’65 Watts riots. Everything was going on there.
Hells bells, the story is basically the same for every big riot, and not just in America. Civil disorder and chaos begins, and otherwise normal folk take the opportunity to loot and pillage like damned Visigoths. Lo and behold, anyone representing Order would – gasp! – mean an end to this, so let’s make ’em duck and cover.
Now, we get shot at (and shot) on plenty of occasions – it doesn’t have to be a riot. This article, for instance specifically discusses EMS and body armor, just because some folk take exception to us covering up the pretty gunshot holes they made in a gang banger. They see us saving their victim, so they plug the victim a few more times to finish him off and give us a couple to think about, too. It happens, too often, but then again once is too often.
It all boils down to scene safety. We’re not supposed to go in unless everything is safe. I wouldn’t be at all surprised, however, if there were some elements in EMS who float the idea of arming the medics – just in case the police are occupied elsewhere. Personally, I think that would be the wrong image, but armed responders do seem to work well elsewhere.
A well-written, two-part piece describing EMS in Israel points out that terrorist bad-guys have been gunning for first responders for decades. Snipers are common, as is the use of secondary devices – a second bomb timed to blow up while police, fire and EMS are on the scene of the first explosion. While the article states that no EMS personnel has ever used his side arm while on duty, there are plenty of stories where one came in handy. Of course, almost everyone in their system is IDF, and well trained.
Should EMS go armed? Well, being armed does not prevent police officers from being sniped, so in that respect, probably not. Amateur snipers probably have a heightened sense of invulnerability anyway. They can take their time to pick their spot and set up, and can usually vacate before they’re pinned down – they wouldn’t care about a glock.
How about for the gang-banger? In my opinion, anyone who is still on-scene after a shooting, wandering around with a gun, is crazier than a… well, would probably not be impressed.
Guess I’m content to continue letting the cops do their job while I do mine.
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