Austin, Tex.—A bill that would allow first responders to carry concealed handguns has been endorsed by Texas senators. It would include paramedics and volunteer firefighters among the first responders to be allowed to carry.
Chris McAllister, a Houston firefighter, decided to propose the bill after a 2012 shooting scene resulted in him and his ambulance crew being threatened by a man with a gun. He believes that first responders have a right to protect themselves considering the risks they face in the line of duty.
“Nationwide, EMS first responders are assaulted 700,000 times a year,” says McAllister. “We are 30 times more likely to be assaulted than the general public, and we are seven times more likely to be murdered than any other health care professional in the line of duty.”
Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas sponsored the bill, which was well-received among the largely Republican Senate. The legislation is also pending review in the House of Representatives.
The bill is actually opposed by the Houston Fire Department, whose arson investigators, also certified police officers, are the only employees permitted to carry guns.
Captain Ruy Lozano of the HFD disapproves of the bill because response times could be slowed if first responders have to secure their firearms before entering burning buildings, hospitals and other areas that prohibit firearms.
McAllister argues that the bill wouldn’t change much about the policies currently in place. As long as they are licensed to have concealed handguns, first responders in Texas are already allowed to carry firearms. While the HFD prohibits being armed while on duty, other departments across the state do not have this policy.
“The public trusts us with their life. It only seems appropriate the public would trust us to defend our own lives,” McAllister says.
If the bill passes, departments wouldn’t be allowed to prohibit employees from carrying concealed handguns if they are licensed to do so and go through an additional 20 hours of firearms training. This would include learning how to seek cover in the line of fire and how to implement tactical-response shooting.
McAllister also has another similar bill that is pending in the House. While he is pro-gun, he doesn’t agree with other proposed bills asking first responders to be able to openly carry firearms while working, as he believes this would pose too much of a safety risk.
During Senate committee hearings, Texas Gun Sense, a group based out of San Antonio, spoke out against the bill proposed by McAllister. Andrea Brauer, executive director of the group, says that while they want first responders to be safe, they consider the bill to be “bad public policy.” They fear that the risk of accidental shootings could increase if the bill is passed.
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