AUGUSTA (AP) — A bill that would allow Maine’s forest rangers to carry firearms is moving forward in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

In a 24-11 vote Tuesday, the Senate endorsed Republican Rep. Larry Dunphy’s bill, which won initial approval in the House earlier this month.

Officials estimate it would cost nearly $87,000. Rangers would have to take classes and training to be armed.

Forest rangers said firearms will protect them from the growing dangers they face in the field. But critics say rangers carrying weapons is inappropriate and unnecessary.

The Senate rejected a proposed amendment that would have created nine new “conservation officers,” who could carry firearms and enforce criminal laws and would restrict forest ranger enforcement to only civil violations.

The measure faces final votes in the House and Senate.

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