AUGUSTA, Maine — The state Senate on Thursday gave its initial approval to a bill that would allow the holders of concealed weapons permits to carry loaded guns within Acadia National Park.
As originally introduced, the bill would have prohibited the possession of firearms within the boundaries of Acadia, the St. Croix Island International Historic Site and along Maine’s section of the Appalachian Trail.
The bill, LD 1737, was a response to a recent federal law lifting the long-standing ban on firearms in national parks while authorizing states to adopt their own gun regulations for parks within their borders.
The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee rewrote the bill to apply only to Acadia. But committee members were divided over whether the holders of “concealed carry” permits as well as retired and off-duty law enforcement officers should be allowed to carry guns in the national park.
On Thursday, an attempt in the Senate to approve the version of the bill that would ban concealed weapons in Acadia failed in a 14-20 vote. The Senate then approved the version that would allow concealed weapons permit holders, off-duty police and retired law enforcement officers to carry loaded weapons within most areas of the park.
There was no debate before either vote.
“We knew what the votes were,” said Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee and a supporter of a total ban on concealed weapons in Acadia.
The bill faces additional votes in the Senate before heading to the House, where debate is likely.