AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Proposed state legislation could allow volunteer firefighters and paramedics to carry a handgun when responding to 911 calls.
House Bill 435 would allow volunteer firefighters and EMS workers to carry a handgun while on duty if they have a concealed carry permit. While some see potential risks for their department, local fire officials say you never know what you're going to get when you arrive at the scene. Firearm policies for first responders are currently set at the local level and vary by location.
The proposal would also not require any additional training for first responders who are licensed to carry, but local fire officials say it's a must. Amarillo Fire Department Captain Larry Davis says their department does not have volunteer firefighters, but they do comply with the state's concealed carry law. He said they will not infringe on the rights of their workers to carry guns.
"I do feel the guys should have a way to protect themselves, however we do feel they need to be highly trained in using that weapon," said Davis.
The Randall County Fire Department does have volunteers and does not allow their crews to carry while on duty. But if the bill is passed, Randall County Fire Chief James Amerson said they will have the right to bear arms while on the clock.
"I think that it does apply to our Second Amendment rights. I think it brings with it a lot of additional issues to the fire service that we are not used to dealing with. Therefore if we were going to adopt a policy to carry, we would need to follow that up or proceed it with a lot of additional training," said Davis.
Amarillo police officials echoed a similar stance on training, but believe employees should abide by the rules of the organizations they work for. Amarillo Police Chief Ed Drain said if they don't like their workplace policies, they don't have to work there.
"To me that's not an infringement of their Second Amendment right because if they don't like that they don't have to engage in that jurisdiction," said Drain.
He added that he thinks the decision for first responders to carry handguns should remain at the local level and that the outcome will be better if everyone plays their own role.
"To be a fire fighter, to be an EMS, they've got enough to do already without having to worry about trying to use force on the bad guy. That should be our job to do that, the police officers. They've got a tough job already," said Drain.
House Bill 435 is still in consideration and was reported favorably without amendments on Tuesday.