Texas lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow allow emergency personnel, such as firefighters and EMTs, to carry handguns with them when they respond to 911 calls, KXAN-TV reported Friday.
Republican state Rep. Dan Flynn introduced House Bill 56, which would not only allow emergency personnel with a permit to carry, but would also protect them from lawsuits should they utilize their firearm while on duty. Texas currently has no state law that pertains to the issue, so policies regarding emergency personnel are set at the local level. Flynn's bill would create a state law what would prevent localities from restricting their first responders from carrying.
“You need to be able to exercise your Second Amendment right,” Flynn said, referring to first responders who need to be able to "protect themselves because they do go into harm’s way often.”
The bill has had detractors, however. Capt. Rick Rutledge of Austin Travis County EMS and Director Chris Barron of the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas have echoed concerns about improper training with firearms in tense situations.
“You never really know what you’re getting into. There are certainly risks," Rutledge said, citing "tense and unpredictable situations with a firearm and no police training."
Rutledge also doesn't see how crews can utilize both the weapon and the gear necessary for the job.
“You cannot manage a weapon effectively," he said, "and still manage all the medical gear and equipment and things we need to do. So our belief at this time is that it’s not something that fits here."
Barron said the law seems to be redundant because police are never too far behind emergency crews anyway, although he admits that this isn't always the case in rural areas.
“They go to a simple grass fire call and next you thing you know they’re being threatened, and they are calling for law enforcement and they are a long ways off sometimes,” he said.
Barron believes the decision to allow crews to carry should be made at the local level.
However, Flynn's concern is based on the frequency at which emergency responders are attacked.
“What we’re finding out is often someone will set up an attack. They’ll set up a fire just to go after people that they don’t like,” Flynn said.
According to USA Today, emergency responders are attacked and killed far more often than some may believe, citing multiple instances nationwide. According to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 4 out of 5 EMTs have claimed they have been injured on the job, with 52 percent saying the injury was due to assault.