What HB No. 1069 means for first responders’ right to carry

The new law allows first responders in Texas to carry firearms on duty, regulates training, liability


A bill recently passed in the 87th Texas legislative session, HB No. 1069, will allow first responders in Texas to carry a handgun while on duty. The bill provides details on requirements including training, $1 million liability insurance and approved storage devices for responders and agencies.

HB No. 1069 was signed into law and became effective on Sept. 1, 2021. The bill was authored by Cody Harris (R), who serves in the Texas House of Representatives. The bill pertains to “first responders,” defined as a public safety employee whose duties include responding rapidly to an emergency. This applies to fire protection personnel and EMS personnel. The term does not include volunteer emergency services personnel or peace officers.

Liability

HB No. 1069 was signed into law and became effective on Sept. 1, 2021, and allows first responders in Texas to carry a handgun while on duty.
HB No. 1069 was signed into law and became effective on Sept. 1, 2021, and allows first responders in Texas to carry a handgun while on duty. (Photo/Getty Images)

The first responder is responsible for paying for all associated costs and the bill specifically exempts the governmental unit from any legal liability in the event a weapon is discharged.

“A governmental unit is not liable in a civil action arising from the discharge of a handgun by an individual who is a first responder or volunteer emergency services personnel and licensed to carry the handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.”

First responders who opt to carry a handgun on duty will be required to maintain a $1 million liability insurance policy which is paid for by the individual first responder.

Applicability

The bill also discusses changes to other laws and codes that allow first responders to possess these weapons in some of the traditionally prohibited premises within Texas. Most notably, HB No. 1069 specifically states that a municipality or county that falls in the specified criteria (listed below) may not otherwise prohibit a first responder who has the required training and possess a license to carry a handgun during duty or while in a governmental owned vehicle or premise.

HB No. 1069 applies to a municipality with a population of 30,000 or less that has not adopted Chapter 174, or a county with a population of 250,000 or less that has not adopted Chapter 174. In Texas, Chapter 174 refers to a collective bargaining unit for public safety that is voted on in an election.

HB No. 1069 specifically states that a municipality or county that falls in the proper criteria may not otherwise prohibit a first responder who has the required training and license to carry a handgun during duty or while in a governmental owned vehicle or premise.

HB No. 1069 provides first responders a defense to prosecution who possess the required training, while in official capacity from the Texas Penal Code 30.06 and 30.07, which allow business and premises to respectively prohibit concealed and open carry of a handgun.

Essentially, when the qualified first responder is on duty, HB No. 1069 will allow the first responder to carry a handgun on the premise of 30.06 and/or 30.07 establishments, which legally prohibit possessing a handgun on these premises.

Limitations

Exceptions granted in the bill allow organizations to prohibit a first responder from carrying a firearm while on duty based on first responder conduct or if it interferes with their duties. Further, if a first responder receives one or more complaints from a member of the public, the first responder may be prohibited or limited from carrying a handgun on duty.

The bill states that “a first responder may only discharge a handgun while on duty only in self-defense.” The bill specifically adds that the “discharge of a handgun by a first responder is outside of the course and scope of the first responders’ scope of duty.”

Training

HB No. 1069 required the Texas Department of Public Safety of Texas to create a certification class (no greater than 40 hours) by a qualified handgun instructor by January 1, 2022.

The training course must be administered by a qualified handgun instructor and provide classroom training in:

  • Self-defense
  • De-escalation techniques
  • Methods to conceal and secure a handgun
  • Consequences of improper use of a handgun

Field training requiring physical demonstrations of proficiency must include:

  • Instinctive or reactive shooting
  • Tactical shooting
  • Shooting while moving

After receiving the initial education, there will be a required annual continuing education course that cannot exceed 10 hours of instruction.

Agencies will make available, at the fiscal cost of the first responder, an approved storage option of the handgun while the first responder enters federally or otherwise prohibited areas where handguns are not allowed. If the first responder engages in a course of duty where carrying a handgun is unfeasible, approved storage will need to be made available to the first responder, at the cost of the first responder.

Impacts and requirements

In conclusion, HB No. 1069 will apply to many jurisdictions across the state of Texas. Hospitals, law enforcement, schools, businesses and other community partners could be impacted by the new bill and should be knowledgeable of HB No 1069.

Eligible Texas first responders should consider the impacts and requirements regarding training, proficiencies, liability and all associated costs to carry a handgun while on duty.

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