This last legislative assembly (2021) came with a whole slew of firearm law changes. Everything from definitions of first responders to removal of silencers from the prohibited weapons list. Included in that legislation is a part allowing First Responders to certify to carry handguns while on duty. So in this article I’m going cover what a First Responder is and what the Texas On-Duty First Responder Training Course requirements are at this time. And just a heads up, JTF Consulting will be offering this course in the future once DPS has approved the course curriculum sometime after January 1st, 2022.
So what does Texas define as a First Responder? You’ll find that in the Penal Code section, specifically Chapter 46, weapons.
PENAL CODE TITLE 10. OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, AND MORALS CHAPTER 46. WEAPONS
In that chapter, the penal code defines First Responders as:
"First responder" means a public safety employee whose duties include responding rapidly to an emergency. The term includes fire protection personnel as defined by Section 419.021, Government Code, and emergency medical services personnel as defined by Section 773.003, Health and Safety Code. The term does not include: (A) volunteer emergency services personnel; (B) an emergency medical services volunteer, as defined by Section 773.003, Health and Safety Code; or (C) a peace officer or reserve law enforcement officer, as those terms are defined by Section 1701.001, Occupations Code, who is performing law enforcement duties.
This means that fire and EMS personnel must be paid, full time employees of the profession and cannot be volunteers. They must also have a current, valid Texas License to Carry prior to taking the course. It also means that Law Enforcement, both full time and reserve are not bound by these requirements.
So what does the training involve?
So you’re a fulltime EMT or Firefighter and you already have your Texas License to Carry and you want to be able to carry your handgun while on duty, what do you do next? Texas House Bill 1069 outlines what is required in the course and gives us a good idea of what to expect in the class.
Sec.411.184. TRAINING COURSE FOR CERTAIN FIRST RESPONDERS.
(a)In this section, “first responder” has the meaning assigned by
Section 46.01, Penal Code.
(b)The director by rule shall establish minimum standards
for an initial training course that a first responder who is a
license holder and who is employed or supervised by a county or
municipality to which Chapter 179, Local Government Code, applies
may complete to receive a certification of completion from the
department under this section. The training course must:
(1)be administered by a qualified handgun instructor;
(2)include not more than 40 hours of instruction;
(3)provide classroom training in:
(C)tactical thinking relating to cover for and
concealment of the license holder;
(D)methods to conceal a handgun and methods to
ensure the secure carrying of a concealed handgun;
(E)the use of restraint holsters and methods to
ensure the secure carrying of an openly carried handgun; and
(F)consequences of improper use of a handgun;
(4)provide field instruction in the use of handguns,
(A)instinctive or reactive shooting;
(C)shooting while moving; and
(D)shooting in low light conditions;
(5)require physical demonstrations of proficiency in
techniques learned in training; and
(6)provide procedures for securing and storing a
handgun if the first responder, while on duty, is required to enter
a location where carrying the handgun is prohibited by federal law
(c)The department by rule shall establish minimum
standards for an annual continuing education course that is
administered by a qualified handgun instructor and includes not
more than 10 hours of instruction for a person who has completed the
initial training course described by Subsection (b).
(d)The department shall issue a certificate of completion
to a first responder who is a license holder and who completes the
initial training course under Subsection (b) or the continuing
education course under Subsection (c), as applicable. A
certificate of completion expires on the first anniversary of
(e)The first responder is responsible for paying to the
course provider the costs of a training course under this section.
So from this outline we can gather a few things, lets break them down.
From the Texas definition of a qualified handgun instructor, the course will generally be offered through 4 instructors.
- LTC Instructors, unsurprisingly Texas approved these as qualified instructors
- TCOLE Firearms Instructors, usually certified through an agency and on a state level.
- Level 3 Private Security Firearms Instructor, same as the TCOLE but for private security companies and officers.
- NRA Certified Handgun Instructors are also approved to teach the course.
So the bill states that the course can be no longer than 40 hours, but doesn’t give a minimum. Does that mean there will be a 4 hour class? I highly doubt it, I see most classes being 8 to 16 hours in length, with ‘advanced’ classes being 16+ hours. What’s good is that a good portion of the class looks to be hands on, which is more effective than just classroom time or online.
So the classroom training will cover a lot of the same topics as the standard Texas License To Carry such as liability, de-escalation techniques, and legal considerations. What I’m excited to see is the introduction of a tactical mindset, concealment methods and introduction of “restraint” holsters, which I’m assuming means something like a level 2 holster.
Live Range Training
They list some interesting things here for the hands on portion. Instinctive or reaction shooting, tactical shooting, shooting while moving, and low light shooting. Really they could have just left it at tactical shooting since I feel like that covers a lot of those anyway. I’m really happy to see the incorporation of low light and shooting under movement, I feel like these are often over looked and should be covered in LTC. Of course finally, the shooting qualification and proficiency demonstration of the skills learned in the course.
Texas House Bill 1069 also set guidelines for annual qualification requirements for the first responder certification to be taught by a qualified handgun instructor. The recertification class can not be longer than 10 hours and includes a live fire qualification, but does not specify what all is to be included in in those possible 10 hours. I would imagine it would include a legislative update on any laws applicable to LTC holders or any changes made to the requirements.
Sad to say I don’t see these certification courses being very cheap. If they run 8 hours you can assume that they will cost about $125+ per person and the price only goes up from there the longer the classes get. HB 1069 also states that the cost is up to the individual first responder and not his or her agency, so the cost is completely up to the license holder.
It also states in HB1069 that agencies can also enact policies for their employees to carry with the certification, but that they can not implement policies prohibiting the carry of handgun on duty. Great right? Not so much. Agencies may not allow license holders to carry without having a policy in place, and are not duty bound to enact a policy. So basically they can’t outright say you can’t do it, but if they don’t make a policy, you still can’t do it. Isn’t government great kids? There are more things to take into account and are required, but we won’t have a clear picture of what that is until DPS puts out the course and associated info on it. So until then make sure your employers get policies put in place and stay strapped my friends, and feel free to check out our other courses in the meantime!