Mat-Su Borough will pay for firearms training for residents

Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents will have access to free or low-cost weapons training under a new borough grant program targeted at compensating for limited local law enforcement.

Officials estimate that the $75,000 grant could pay for private firearms safety training for up to 300 residents over the next year.

The grant was approved in a 5-2 vote by the borough assembly this month as part of the larger approval process for the borough’s $455 million budget for 2025.

The program is designed to give residents the skills to respond to threats when trained law enforcement officers are not nearby, said Assembly Member Ron Bernier, who sponsored the legislation.

Bernier said the program was inspired by the deaths of two women found near Trapper Creek in 2023, he said. Federal prosecutors say those deaths were linked to a drug trafficking ring.

“I told the community of Trapper Creek, ‘You guys need to band together to be some type of militia. You guys are the first line of defense,’ and this is part of my answer for that,” Bernier said during a special assembly meeting May 9.

State troopers are responsible for law enforcement across most of the borough, an area the size of West Virginia. About 30% of trooper patrol positions for the region are currently vacant, state Department of Public Safety officials said May 14.

A related resolution urging borough residents to own guns and ammunition passed the assembly unanimously earlier this year.

The two assembly members who voted no on the grant funding — Stephanie Nowers and Tim Hale — said that they opposed the program because it increases borough spending.

A private company to provide the firearms training will be selected through a bidding process, borough officials said.

 

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