Debate heating up over whether forest rangers should carry guns

7:03 PM, Apr 26, 2013   |    comments
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BROWNVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Police officers and game wardens carry guns in Maine. Now the question is should forest rangers be allowed to as well. 

A bill being considered in Augusta would lift long-standing restrictions on rangers having firearms while on duty. Some officials with the Maine Forest Service say they would feel safer if they were armed while patrolling the woods.

Gary Cook is one ranger whose been working in Maine for decades. He says he's responded to some situations in the woods that were hair raising. In one case he says a suspect pulled a gun on him and a state trooper.

"There's only two groups of people in Maine that can't possess a firearm by law...and that's felons and forest rangers. To me that's unacceptable," he said.

If passed into law LD 297 would allow rangers to carry guns. It would also mandate that they go through training on how to use them.

Yet the bill does have many opponents who say they don't want to see forest rangers armed. That includes the Maine Forest Products Council. Members say if rangers feel threatened in the line of duty it's their duties that should change but the firearm restriction should remain in place.

"If we are pushing them into harm's way then we need to re-evaluate some of those responsibilities that are creating that concern," said Patrick Strauch, who is the executive director for the group, "

The bill is now being considered by a legislative committee. Gary Cook estimates if passed it will then cost about $100,000 dollars to provide guns and gun training for all forest rangers in Maine. The cost of maintaining the program would be then be about $20,000 dollars a year.


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