Legislation has been proposed in Texas that would authorize first responders to carry guns.
House Bill 982, introduced last month by Rep. John Wray, would let paramedics and firefighters carry firearms while on duty. This would include anyone working in emergency medical services or fire protection, including volunteers.
CBS Dallas reports that Wray says that it’s impossible to predict how secure crash, fire, or crime scenes will be and who will arrive first at the scene. Some departments and local governments already allow first responders to carry guns, and Wray said the bill will bring consistency.
“In the less urban areas… you increase the likelihood that the first responders on the scene will be non-peace officers — such as fire and EMS,” said Wray.
Wray continued, focusing on the safety of the first responders: “Firefighters and EMS do not need to perform a peace officer role, but they certainty have the right to protect themselves.”
Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum opposes the measure, according to the Waco Tribune.
“I would be in favor of leaving guns in the hands of police officers,” Tatum said. “We have a specific mission to save lives and property, and I think carrying a firearm would cross the line in that regard.”
Other state lawmakers have voiced their support, including Rep. Kyle Kacal.
“In many communities across our state, and especially rural Texas, emergency responders, including EMS and firefighters, are solely volunteer and may carry firearms in their everyday life,” Kacal said. “The bill, as filed, is intended to relieve the burden of first responders from having to remove and store their firearms before responding to emergencies in firearm-restricted locations.”
Kacal continued: “Because timeliness is critical in most emergency situations, I believe it’s necessary to consider any efforts to maximize the effectiveness of emergency response.”
Wray indicated similar bills had previously been filed and did not become law. Still, he feels confident about the current bill, which has not yet made it out of committee.