AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci is expected to sign an amended bill that will regulate guns in Acadia National Park but relax restrictions that a sponsor of the measure hoped to preserve.

Sen. Dennis Damon’s original bill would have outlawed all firearms in national park sites in Maine, essentially continuing a policy that had been in effect. Exceptions were allowed in the bill for guns carried by law enforcement officers and those that are packed so they can’t be used immediately.

The bill sponsored by Damon, a Democrat whose district covers Acadia, came up as a federal law took effect in February to allow owners to take firearms into national parks – provided state law doesn’t say otherwise.

But as the bill emerged from the Maine House and Senate, the amended version allowed people with concealed-weapons permits to bring guns into Acadia.

Also, it lacked a provision in Damon’s bill that would have outlawed guns on the Appalachian Trail and the St. Croix Island International Historic Site in eastern Maine.

Damon said Friday that the bill won’t accomplish what he intended.

“I still don’t see any reason why there has to be concealed weapons going through the park,” said Damon, who also dismissed arguments that park visitors need guns to protect themselves.

“It seems to me to make it a more dangerous place, a less pleasant experience, rather than a less dangerous place and a more pleasant experience, and I think that’s the wrong direction,” said Damon, noting that he is a gun owner.

Baldacci is expected to sign the bill next week, said his spokesman David Farmer.

Gun control advocates were also disappointed.

“This a radical expansion of guns into national parks in Maine,” said Cathie Whittemore of the National Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. “The only thing this did was address the narrow issue of open carry in Acadia.”

Whittemore also expressed disappointment that the two other areas that Damon’s original bill covered were dropped from the bill.

A call and an e-mail message left with the National Rifle Association were not immediately returned Friday, but the gun-rights group pushed hard for the federal policy to allow guns in parks.

The NRA has cited a self-defense argument, saying crime does not stop at park gates.The National Rifle Association pushed hard for the federal policy to allow guns in parks. The NRA cited a self-defense argument, saying crime does not stop at park gates.


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