Should Bail Bondsmen Carry Firearms?

Police departments around the country continue to make news each time an officer subdues a suspect in the line of duty. The controversy seems reinvigorated after each incident. The general public questions whether police are too quick to pull their trigger, arguing they are trained professionals who should give the suspect more time or shoot to wound. If the law enforcement officers we trust to keep societal justice cannot be trusted with a firearm, why would we trust a civilian with a firearm permit?

Unlike police officers that do not know every citizen they contact, bail bondsmen are aware that their customers have enough evidence against them to be charged with a crime and placed in jail. While the many customers are not violent and will not skip their bail, there certainly are dangerous customers that will do just about anything to prevent being incarcerated. People like this bring the controversy of carrying firearms to light. Some bail bondsmen choose not to carry a firearm while others habitually carry firearms.

Take the March 15, 2015, shooting by Boise, Idaho, bondsmen for example. A 58-year-old male failed to appear for court and a bond of $100,000 was set in the case and a warrant issued for the suspect’s arrest. Four bondsmen located the suspect in the parking lot of an apartment complex when the suspect allegedly reached for handgun, causing one of the bondsmen to shoot him. The suspect later died at the hospital (Idaho State Journal, 2015).

Debbie Hicks of Debbie’s Bail Bonds in Pocatello, Idaho, explains that many bail bondsmen chose to not carry a firearm, citing that experienced surveillance will lead to a safe recovery most of the time. In cases where a threat is Concealed Carryfelt, these bondsmen may ask for police assistance. While the U.S. Supreme Court gives bondsmen authority to arrest fugitives, they are not allowed to serve warrants. Because of this, bondsmen may frequently seek police assistance to have a warrant served after the fugitive is located. However, some bondsmen are not comfortable without a mean of protecting themselves. These bondsmen are required to have a permit to carry their firearm and are still subject to the law like any other civilian.

Since bondsmen know they are dealing with potentially dangerous criminals that are avoiding incarceration, will they be more likely than a police officer to discharge their firearm at a suspect in self-defense? Should bondsmen utilize law enforcement resources more frequently instead of approaching dangerous suspects themselves? Each bondsman will have their own preferences based on their experience, comfort with a firearm, and relationship with law enforcement. Overall, bondsmen should weigh the negative and positive consequences of carrying a firearm, understanding that you may be faced with the choice of taking someone’s life with only a fraction of a second to make the decision. If you chose to carry a firearm, practice your marksmanship frequently, stay up-to-date on training and the law, and only use your firearm if in a life-threatening situation.

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  1. william ellenburg

    I carry on the job, I am a licensed bondsman here in Colorado, I have never had to discharge my weapon, it is my Last resort, it is in case my life is in lethal danger. Plus, I always call law enforcement. Not necessarily to assist but to know I am there, and armed. If I know there is children around or there are multiple unknowns, even elderly, I will ask law enforcement to come out. Safety first….U do this job right, u will never have to pull a gun. However, in the mountains, EVERYONE can be a threat. They live by different rules up there, and I always have cops in the mountains come out

  2. I think bail Agents need to carry guns because police don’t help us at all if the police don’t like it then police can go on duty with out their weapons and see what will happen to them.

    • I call for assistance all the time. 90% of the time I get a call back from the Sargent or supervisor saying they are to busy, they cant/wont get involved, or they say, why are we going to do your job for you! When they do show up they said go ahead, we’ll stand by in case anything happens. They are fugitive for a reason. Most do not and will not come with out a fight. I myself have had to use legal force to protect myself. Yet, I’m still here, licensed and a CCW holder in CA. You rarely find a Fugitive Recovery Agent in the headlines where with the police is an everyday thing. Because I’m a civilian and do not have the immunity and protection that the police have; I follow the rules closely because I will lose everything, my family will too.

      just my $0.02

  3. I carry a fire arm and a taser. I am certified in the Asp also. I am going to start carrying it also. In my city and most counties the police will not assist or even come out and make the arrest. I have accumulated about 13 years in this industry and have not once fired my weapon and only fired my taser once. I have also only been in one altercation where the def swung on me or my group. I have arrested well over 500 people. So I feel like it is all in how you work and how professional you are.

  4. Chris Guimbellot

    Yes I carry,because we live in a dangerous world period. I carry on the job too,so does my fellow bondsman,yes some law enforcement agencies will assist some want,so turning to law enforcement for help is 50/50,these guys have a lot going on they can’t just stop and help when we call. I do believe as bondsman we could narrow down who to let be a bondsman because there are a few that are to Gung how for the job and could put others in danger where it don’t need to be. But I do believe we need to keep carrying just for our safety. And depending on where u live makes a difference,I’m from Monroe,Louisiana so it pretty rough.

  5. The last paragraph in the article much says it all. It is a judgment each of us, as licensed bondsmen, must make. In 16 years as a licensed bondsman and PI, I have not had to show my firearm once. I do call for backup if and when I encounter a fugitive that I have any reservations for and I do try to involve LE. As mentioned previously; LE will not respond for various reasons. I do carry concealed and have for many years, but that is a personal decision and I do practice often and try to keep myself current on training.

    I only have one thought… when you introduce a firearm into any physical confrontation, you have immediately raised the level to that of deadly force and that may be a position you will find very difficult to retreat from. As said, if you choose to carry, do so with as much continued training as possible and hope that the day will never come that you have to employ your weapon.

  6. Fernando Palacios

    As a licensed bounty hunter in California, I have to say that you really do need a firearm;at least one in the group, but also more personalized training to go with it; a large number of cases over contracted for have been pretty dangerous thus far, especially when you look at the facts that all the bounty hunters killed recently on the job died while attempting to apprehend a non-violent misdemeanor. You aren’t going to see it coming, these people rarely threaten you with bodily harm to where you expect it.

    Of course this is what my partner and I learned in the police academy; they teach you everybody is a threat.
    This article also points out another issue: notice the improper usage of the term ‘civilian’? That means non-military; creating a rift between law-enforcement and non-law enforcement.

    I had that issue too right after the academy, it really creates a wall mentally. This issue is another reason to be honest why there’s allot more law-enforcement shootings than with bailbonsmen and bounty hunters.
    Police tend to treat us like garbage over the phone but then in person see us and then treat us like family once they find out we went to the academy.

  7. Fernando Palacios

    Not to mention 90% of the time, the LE won’t come out because either they are too busy or just don’t want to get involved.

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