Safe Firearm Handling

In your role as an EMT, you will come across firearms that are unsecured. Over 50%1 of Oregon households own a firearm and an estimated 7%2 possess a concealed firearm permit. With so many firearms in circulation you are highly likely to encounter them, either as part of the call narrative, or they will materialize as part of the scene size up or patient assessment. How your respond to discovering an unsecured firearm will affect your safety. Let’s look at some basics of firearm safety, then work through a few scenarios.

There are several rules for EMS providers when encountering firearms:

  1. Do not touch the firearm if safety isn’t in threat.3 Movement of a firearm should only take place to keep the scene safe and the firearm should only be moved to a secure location (lockbox or safe person).
  2. All firearms are loaded.
  3. If you must handle the firearm, never let the barrel point toward anything you don’t want to destroy or kill. The floor works great.
  4. Never place your fingers on the trigger or inside the trigger guard.
  5. If discovered enroute to the hospital, lock the firearm in the glovebox or medication cabinet and notify hospital security to meet you in the ambulance bay to secure the weapon.
  6. Additional training is necessary for safe firearm handling. If you are not trained in firearm safety, do not attempt to manipulate or “clear” a firearm.
  7. Take additional care to avoid disturbing a weapon if it is involved in a crime scene. If moving the weapon is necessary, request law enforcement perform the procedure or document exact movements and transfer that information to law enforcement.

A hunting rifle.

An semi automatic handgun with a magazine and a flashlight.

Assault type rifle with extended magazinelaying on carpeted surface.
Images by Nickolas Oatley, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


Threat y/n


You are caring for a 55y/o male experiencing chest pain. He has an open carry pistol on his hip. He is in his home.


Safest approach: Ask the patient to secure the firearm at home before going to the hospital.

Acceptable: encourage him to relinquish the firearm to a trusted person on scene to secure the firearm

While assessing your 22y/o male patient involved in a motorcycle accident he tells you that he has a concealed pistol in his backpack. He is worried that it would be out of his sight. Law enforcement is not on scene.


Safest approach: call law enforcement to secure the backpack

Acceptable: Inform the patient that he cannot have it while under medical care and that you will lock it in the ambulance and pass it to security at the hospital

You are working a cardiac arrest of a 77y/o female. There is a shotgun sitting in the corner of her bedroom, out of the way.


Safest approach: Leave it alone. It is of no threat.

Your crew is responding to an assault at a local tavern. Law enforcement is on scene and has advised you to enter. Your patient is a 44y/o female who sustained blunt trauma to her face and chest. On your initial assessment, you find a pistol in her pants.


Safest approach: Ask law enforcement to remove and secure the firearm.

Acceptable: Inform the patient that you will be removing the firearm and give it to law enforcement.

You are caring for a 16y/o female who was assaulted. Her father meets you at the door with a shotgun apparently to defend her from her attacker.


Safest approach: Retreat from the scene, request law enforcement re-enter when safe.

Less safe, but acceptable: Ask the father to put the gun away so you can care for his daughter.

To receive a sign-off for this skill you will need to discuss safe firearm handling with an EMS instructor.

Firearm Safety Skill Verification Table

Firearm safety

1 (instructor)



  1. Gun Ownership by State 2023. World Population Review. Accessed April 3, 2023.
  2. Shaikh Z, Cansler D. Who is most likely to legally carry a concealed handgun in Oregon? OregonLive. Published August 15, 2022. Accessed April 3, 2023.
  3. Rose A. Pistol-Packin` Patients. EMSWorld. Published February 28, 2009. Accessed April 3, 2023.

The original copy of this book resides at If you are reading this work at an alternate web address, it may contain content that has not been vetted by the original authors and physician reviewers.



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Oregon EMS Psychomotor Skills Lab Manual Copyright © 2023 by Chris Hamper, BS, NRP; Carmen Curtz, Paramedic, BS; Holly A. Edwins, Paramedic, B.S.; and Jamie Kennel, PhD, MAS, NRP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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