Raleigh, N.C. — A House committee approved a bill Wednesday with multiple new rules and benefits for first responders, ranging from allowing EMS personnel to carry concealed weapons to classifying violence against emergency personnel as a hate crime.
Several provisions of House Bill 181 provide more benefits for first responders and their families. Firefighters who work enough hours would be able to receive a tax deduction, while spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty could receive a break on their property taxes. A five-year service requirement also would be waived for indigent firefighters to be eligible for assistance from the Firefighters Relief fund.
Another section calls for a Department of Transportation study to ease access to interstate highways for emergency vehicles.
Two of the main parts of the bill change what first responders are allowed to do and how those who harm them will be prosecuted. EMS personnel would be allowed to carry concealed weapons, something they haven’t been trained for or permitted to do in the past. They would first have to complete a training course approved by the state or the National Rifle Association.
"Usually, EMS have to wait outside a scene until a SWAT team clears it," said sponsor Rep. Larry Potts, R-Davidson. "[This] allows them to be a part of the initial entry."
House Bill 181 also classifies an assault or violence against first responders as a hate crime, which increases the severity of the punishment following a conviction.
"When someone is putting their life on the line to protect us and others, they shouldn’t have to be worrying about their own lives," said sponsor Rep. Carl Ford, R-Rowan.