First responders often walk into very dangerous situations, which is what prompted Texas State Rep. John Wray to introduce House Bill 982. The bill would allow first responders and EMTs to carry firearms on the job. Existing law requires first responders and EMTs to disarm and leave any weapons in their vehicle prior to responding to a call, if they have a concealed carry. If HB 982 is passed, it would allow first responders who are concealed carriers the ability to keep their firearms on their persons when responding to a call.
First responders are classified as public safety employees and volunteers, firefighters and volunteer firefighters, emergency medical personnel (EMTs) and volunteers.
“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. Firefighters and EMS do not need to perform a peace officer role, but they certainty have the right to protect themselves,” Wray argues.
While these are the reasons that Wray proposed the bill, he has other supporters who cite other reasons for doing so.
“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,” Rep. Kyle 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. Because timeliness is critical in most emergency situations, I believe it’s necessary to consider any efforts to maximize the effectiveness of emergency response.”
“I would be in favor of leaving guns in the hands of police officers. We have a specific mission to save lives and property, and I think carrying a firearm would cross the line in that regard,” Waco Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said.
At this time, HB 982 is still in committee and although similar laws have been proposed and did not pass, Wray and other supporters remain optimistic this bill will be different.