Q: I recently barely escaped being run over. I am an amputee and was moving across a parking lot when a woman put her car in gear and backed up toward me without looking. I could be easily knocked over, and I thought later that if that happened, I may need medical attention. Turning my weapon over to hospital security is not a good feeling. As a former officer, I would feel much more comfortable having the police take my gun for safekeeping. The same situation would exist in a vehicle accident. I don’t know if this situation has been covered previously.
~ Ken B.
What happens if you are hurt? Typically, in the United States, someone comes to help you. If you are in car accident, fall out of a tree or slip on the ice, it is very likely that someone will call an ambulance. The first responders will arrive to take you to safety.
But what happens to your gun? We regularly get questions about this from readers and USCCA members. I even recently gave a class on the topic to a group of emergency medical technicians and paramedics. I was startled at how little the group knew about guns or how to handle a situation in which a legally armed citizen needed medical help.
The first thing to understand is this: If you are injured in a car crash or other accident to the extent that you need an ambulance, the focus should be getting you the proper emergency medical care. No one should ignore your bleeding because you happen to have a gun.
But what happens to that gun is pretty important. If you are conscious, you may have the opportunity to tell the first responders about your weapon and assist in its care. If you have an uninjured family member nearby, you may be able to give the gun to that person, or you may not. At the very least, you should try to get the name of the person who takes your gun. If you are not conscious, expect that your rescuers are going to take your gun, and you will likely wake up not knowing anything about it.
My suggestion for gun owners is this: Carry a card in your wallet with the make, model and serial number of your firearm. That way, you will be able to provide your caregivers accurate information in the search for your gun. There is really not much else you can do in such a situation.
In the past, I have instructed first responders, EMTs and paramedics to simply cut through the belt and remove the holster and gun as one unit. At that point, they should lock the holstered gun inside a case, box or lockable storage compartment inside the ambulance. The reason for cutting through the belt is simple in my mind: We cannot expect ambulance attendants or even every police officer in the nation to know how to clear your gun and make it safe. Leaving the gun in the holster ensures that the trigger is covered. The gun is, for all intents and purposes, safest when left in the holster. If the gun is in the holster, there is very little chance of a negligent discharge during administrative handling. Once the patient is stable and things have calmed down, the ambulance team can turn the firearm over to law enforcement officers who can log it into evidence, which is basically secure storage.
None of this means you will get your gun back quickly or easily. Once your gun is in the possession of the ambulance company or a local law enforcement agency, you can expect to be required to show proof of ownership and wait until a supervisor is present to release your property to you. That is the way bureaucrats work. It is not right, but it is the truth.
You can worry about this all you want, but the truth of the matter is you need to take steps to ensure you can accurately identify your gun. That’s the only way you will get it back. It’s just another downside of being involved in an accident severe enough to require an ambulance ride.