Should East Hampton Village Arm Its Lifeguards?

Should lifeguards carry stun guns?
Should lifeguards carry stun guns? Photo: nickp37, vetkit/iStock/Thinkstock, Oliver Peterson

Once again, with summer waning, the debate over whether Village of East Hampton lifeguards should be required to carry Tasers and side knives is being waged.

The Village of East Hampton owns and operates five beaches: Georgica, Main and Two Mile Hollow beaches are all lifeguard protected. Wiborg and Eqypt beaches are not lifeguard protected.

Proponents of the idea contend that arming lifeguards, who are at the forefront of beach activity, will allow them to respond more easily and quickly to certain unpredictable and unacceptable beach behaviors.

And lifeguards are already trained to act in a split second.

Before taking sides in this argument, consider that airline pilots are now allowed to carry firearms. Why should they have lethal protection while our lifeguards can’t even stun troublemakers? Anyone in law enforcement will tell you that the best way to eliminate violence is to have an intimidating deterrent on hand.

Because Code Enforcement isn’t always available, wouldn’t it also be nice if lifeguards could assist in this area? Take a minute and reflect on some East Hampton Village regulations that require enforcement during the summer months:

1. Vehicle beach driving not permitted 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from second Sunday in May to September 30

2. No littering

3. Dogs and animals not permitted on the beaches from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from second Sunday in May to September 30.

4. Environmental protection

5. Beach parties (permit only)

6. Ban on open alcohol containers

7. Beach fires not permitted 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day

So why not let our lifeguards help maintain the enjoyment of all law-abiding beach-goers by having the authority and backup (weapons) to enforce these regulations, should a situation escalate into violence?

And if you think that beach violence is not on the upswing, you are wrong. Beach violence is indeed increasing year after year. Last summer at Main Beach there were reports of teenagers kicking sand, blasting loud music and engaging in excessive gum smacking, while at the same time, some innocent bathers even reported missing beach towels.

If we are going to allow local lifeguards to arm themselves, like many law enforcement departments, each of them should also be equipped with a chest-mounted video camera. This will be helpful when questions arise from confrontations resulting in the administration of force.

And let’s not overlook another beneficial aspect of East Hampton Village lifeguards carrying weapons. In the event of a shark attack, either a Taser or side knife conveniently administered to the biting entity just might save a life.

If man-eating sharks, many of which lurk around our beaches during the summer, know they could be tased or stabbed for misbehaving, they’d think twice before attempting to dine on filet of man.

Area lifeguards have shared mixed opinions about the issue. “Won’t carrying a Taser, knife and camera slow down our rescue swimming?” one asked.

On second thought, maybe this is not such a good idea.

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