Last week, CNN asked a very thought-provoking question that has been on the minds of many gun-owning Americans.
Basically, what’s with the militarization of federal agencies, including the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Small Business Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Food and Drug Administration, Dept. of Education, National Science Foundation, among others?
After pointing out that the USDA recently procured 85 new .40 caliber “submachine guns,” the news outlet asked, “So why do investigators at agencies better known for meat inspections and processing crop insurance claims need automatic weapons?”
Well, CNN got an answer. Not an answer or an explanation that makes much sense, but an answer nonetheless.
“Regarding the need for weapons’ procurements, OIG’s Investigations division conducts hundreds of criminal investigations each year, some of which involve OIG agents, USDA employees, and/or members of the public facing potentially life threatening situations,” USDA Deputy Counsel Paul Feeney told CNN.
The OIG is the Office of the Inspector General for the USDA. While the USDA had been arming criminal investigators since 1981, under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, 25 federal agencies that previously did not have access to firearms or had limited to access firearms gained permanent access to firearms for their agents.
To state the obvious point, CNN quoted Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT), who said,”Americans don’t see why dozens of federal agencies need their own highly armed police forces with the authority to raid homes and businesses.”
As Stewart went on to explain, “When there are genuinely dangerous situations involving federal law, that’s the job of the Department of Justice, not regulatory agencies like the FDA or the Department of Education.”
To put a stop to this practice, Rep. Stewart introduced the Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act back in June. If passed, the bill would do the following:
- Repeals the arrest and firearm authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.
- Prohibits federal agencies, other than those traditionally tasked with enforcing federal law—such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals, from purchasing machine guns, grenades, and other weaponry regulated under the National Firearms Act.
- Directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to write a complete report detailing all federal agencies, including Offices of Inspectors General, with specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training and that respond to high-risk situations that fall outside the capabilities of regular law enforcement officers.
While he’s received bipartisan support for the measure, like all meaningful and worthwhile legislation it’s chances of success are dismal (Govtrack.us gave it a 3 percent chance of being enacted).
In the interview below, Stewart brings up an excellent point about accountability, and the relationship between citizens and their local law enforcement agencies compared with that of the federal government. To summarize, citizens can directly contact their local sheriff. They can air grievances over the phone or face-to-face. And they don’t like the results, they have recourse; meaning, if they want, they can re-elect a new sheriff. The same does not hold true for these federal agencies. There is no transparency. There is no way to reach these agents directly. There is no recourse.
Between the emergence of drones, the extraconstitutional government surveillance, the widespread militarization of federal and state law enforcement agencies, there’s little doubt that the police state has arrived. The only question that remains, how do we continue to keep it in check? Rep. Stewart’s bill is a start, but we got a long way to go.