It’s been almost a year since police officers were ambushed in the streets of Dallas. Paramedics and EMTs who tried to save the wounded also came under fire. The chaotic scene is why first responders should pack more than bandages and medication, according to state Senator Don Huffines.
"Sometimes of course they arrive prior to the police arriving," said the Dallas Republican.
Monday morning Senator Huffines told members of the Senate State Affairs committee the legislation he filed is not about enforcement, only protection.
"Members we already trust first responders with our lives; we should trust them to defend their own,” said Senator Huffiness.
SB 1408 requires 20 hours of training before a first responder can get a special certificate to carry a handgun while on duty. The bill would also provide protection from lawsuits if a gun is discharged in self-defense.
Fire fighter Christopher McAllister testified he's been in situations where a gun would have been helpful.
"We don’t know what we are responding to, even when we think we do, and so as we arrive this affords me an opportunity to defend myself when the situation escalates into something beyond what we had anticipated,” said McAllister.
SB 1408 was voted out of Committee but may be amended when debated on the Senate floor. A somewhat similar bill has also been filed on the House side and is waiting debate on the House floor. Gun control advocates are worried the legislation will not stop dangerous confrontations but will escalate them.
'I think it starts to blur the lines of what a first responder does and what our police officers need to do,” said Andrea Brauer who is the Executive Director with Texas Gun Sense.
Brauer went on to say she is concerned the legislation will take the focus off of saving lives.
“If we do start arming them, and putting them in a situation, in a role that they are not properly trained to do. Because 20 hours of training is not going to be enough to stop an active shooter for example,” said Brauer.
No state currently allows first responders to carry guns while on duty, according to McAllister, but the committee was told at least five other states are currently considering it.