Legislation would allow VPSOs to carry guns

ldemer@adn.comSeptember 26, 2013 

A Bush legislator wants to allow village public safety officers -- the first line of law enforcement in much of rural Alaska -- to carry firearms.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, hosted a day-long meeting Thursday in Anchorage to hear from the Native associations that hire VPSOs; the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees them; and VPSOs themselves.

No one spoke against his legislation, House Bill 199, he said after the meeting. He filed the bill toward the end of this year's session in response to the March death of Thomas Madole, a village public safety officer in Manokotak. The officer was shot and killed when responding to a call about a "possible suicidal person."

The measure would not require VPSOs to carry firearms. Edgmon said his intent is to allow it if the Native nonprofit that hired them and their local government approved.

VPSOs already go through 10 weeks of training, Edgmon said. Certifying them to carry firearms would only add four or five days of training, he said. A different kind of law enforcement officer, village police officers aren't under the authority of state troopers and the measure wouldn't apply to them, he said.

The measure already has 15 co-sponsors, Democrats and Republicans, and should get attention in the 2014 legislative session, Edgmon said.

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