Credit: Courtesy of Maine Forest Rangers

By wide margins, lawmakers have overridden Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of legislation allowing forest rangers to carry firearms, ending a long legislative fight.

Rep. John Martin a Democrat from Eagle Lake, opposed the measure in the past, but voted against the veto.

“I know it is a difficult change for many of us who have taken the position that I have over the years,” Martin said. “But in this day and age, I’m convinced the right thing to do today is override the governor’s veto.”

The proposal to allow forest rangers to be armed has been controversial since it was first introduced in 1997. LePage objected to the the current version, arguing it would permanently change the way rangers do their job. But supporters say rangers are often called on to back up police or game wardens in rural areas of the state and should be armed just like other law enforcement officers.

Rep. Will Tuell, a Republican from East Machias, is one of these supporters.

“We have a chance to do something now that will make that ranger safer. Wouldn’t it make sense to do what we can now to reduce the risk and prevent an officer’s death?” Tuell said.

The new law takes effect 90 days after the close of this special session.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.