August 11, 2014
By Robert W. Hunnicutt
At the same time the current Administration has been busy trying to disarm the citizenry, it has built up a huge paramilitary army of heavily armed bureaucrats in some of the most unusual regulatory agencies.
You might be surprised to know that the Agriculture Department, Department of Education, Food and Drug Administration, even the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have police forces, often armed with full-auto firearms, body armor, grenades, the whole panoply of accessories wielded by today's militarized law enforcement.
Just as the old theater saw says a gun hanging on the wall when the curtain rises has to go off by the third act, the very existence of these units means they will be used, and often in ways that would be comical were they not part of a frightening pattern of eroding rights. The Education Department's police broke down the door of a man suspected of student loan fraud. FDA cops raided an organic food store suspected of selling raw milk. Armed agents of the Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency and NOAA raided a mine in Alaska.
Non-law enforcement federal agencies have always had firearms, but in the old days, it was a few S&W Victory Models and shotguns. The militarization got started in earnest with the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which gave most Offices of Inspector General arrest and firearm authority. I'm sure that seemed like a good idea in the immediate post-9/11 atmosphere, but it is in the DNA of all bureaucracies to build up little fiefdoms, and in this case, they were armed fiefdoms.
All this arming of bureaucrats has been great for manufacturers of guns and other law enforcement gear, as well as for many of the private training businesses that have sprung up in recent years.
Now, student loan fraud or water pollution are certainly big problems. But this isn't the 1930s, and the feds aren't going after Bonnie & Clyde or Machine Gun Kelly. Today's bureaucracies have surveillance and data-processing capabilities Eliot Ness or Melvin Purvis couldn't have imagined. They should rarely need to conduct flashy door-busting takedowns, unless the real purpose is publicity and, not to put too fine a point on it, influencing potential jurors.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has introduced the Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act, a bill intended to force agencies not involved in law enforcement as that term is generally understood to disband their police forces.
"It's disturbing to see the stories of federal regulators armed to the teeth and breaking into homes and businesses when there was no reason to think there would be resistance," Stewart said. "I understand that federal agents must be capable of protecting themselves. But what we have observed goes far beyond providing necessary protection. When there are genuinely dangerous situations involving federal law, thatÃs the job of the Department of Justice, not regulatory agencies like the FDA or the Department of Education. Not only is it overkill, but having these highly-armed units within dozens of agencies is duplicative, costly, heavy handed, dangerous and destroys any sense of trust between citizens and the federal government."
It would be nice to say that Stewart had lined up lots of bipartisan support for this legislation, but so far, all his co-sponsors are Republicans. If Democrats think guns are so dangerous, why do they think education bureaucrats should be carrying them?