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After a three-year effort by a local lawmaker, Kasich signs bill to allow SWAT medics to carry firearms

Paramedics and other medical professionals assigned to a SWAT team in Ohio can carry a firearm later this year, provided they complete training and receive the OK from a local law enforcement agency.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 79 which was jointly sponsored by Ohio Reps. Wes Retherford, R-Hamilton, and Christine Hagan, R-Marlboro Twp. The bill takes effect in 90 days from today.

INITIAL REPORT: Ohio paramedics working with SWAT could carry firearms

The bill allows tactical medical professionals — who are emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses or doctors trained and certified in a nationally recognized tactical program, like SWAT — to carry firearms while on duty. The bill specifies that these first responders must have already received firearms training and be authorized to carry a firearm by the law enforcement agency with which they are associated.

It is an optional opportunity, according to the bill.

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“SWAT EMTs are a special breed of individuals,” Retherford said. “They are often employed by local fire departments as a paramedic or EMT and volunteer their time to be the medic for SWAT teams. These men and women are often part of weekly training, learning group SWAT tactics, participate in firearms training and when called out, can very much find themselves in harm’s way, the same as any other member of the team.”

Retherford has attempted to pass this legislation for the past three years, and he re-introduced the bill last February with Hagan, whose brother serves on a SWAT team in the Columbus area.

RELATED: Gov. Kasich proposes major changes to Ohio gun laws

“What most don’t know is that these medical professionals train shoulder to shoulder with their peers on the professional SWAT teams,” Hagan said. “I have spent time with our tactical training facility professionals in Alliance who are nationally recognized for their efforts. We discussed in great detail the need for this legislation with our officers who train alongside the nation’s elite, including the FBI.”

Nearly 80 lawmakers co-sponsored the bill from the House and Senate, and it received near-unanimous support in voting with a 92-2 vote in the Ohio House and a 31-0 vote in the Ohio Senate. The bill is also similar to what former Republican state lawmaker Courtney Combs introduced when he last represented the Ohio House district.

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