NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Should firefighters and emergency medical responders be allowed to carry weapons while on duty? That's the question raised by a new bill in the state legislature that would authorize just that.
Senate Bill 619 would allow firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and emergency management personnel to carry handguns on duty.
The bill's sponsor, state Senator Joey Hensley said he wrote the bill to help first responders in rural counties.
"Many times law enforcement is not close, because they're going into the rural areas," said Hensley. "So, if they have an incident or they're threatened, they're dealing with some situation where their lives are in danger, they just need to defend themselves."
Hensley said firefighters would have an initial training period and then would have eight hours of training each year. It's not clear what that training would entail.
Tennessee's firefighting associations haven't come out with a response to the legislation yet. However, Brentwood Deputy Fire Chief David Windrow said he has a lot of questions about how it would work.
"If the firefighters leave it in the truck, because we wouldn't be bringing it into a fire, and it gets stolen, or if a firefighter is wearing it on their hip and they're conducting CPR on a patient, their focus is on the patient. They might lose the situational awareness of where that gun is. Someone could come up and get that from him. I would worry about that liability," said Windrow.
Brentwood's fire department has a policy against firefighters carrying guns while on duty or on city property.
Windrow said he could see how rural areas could benefit from the legislation. The bill states that no fire departments would be forced to take on the policy if it passes through the legislature. Each department would make that decision locally.