Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The riots in Ferguson, Missouri, have spawned a heated and, one hopes, productive debate about the “militarization” of the police. While one can argue about the tactics and weaponry used by police, however, there’s little debate about the necessity of cops being armed. The real problem is the thousands of agents in federal regulatory bodies who likely have no business being armed at all.
According to the Wall Street Journal, in 1973 there were 507 federal criminal investigators, excluding those in federal departments with explicit law enforcement duties such as Treasury, Justice, and Defense. By 2011, the ranks of armed federal agents in civilian regulatory agencies had swollen to 3,812. In 1973, the forerunner to the Department of Health and Human Services had exactly one armed investigator. Today, HHS has 686 criminal investigators—more than any other agency. Even the Peace Corps now has four criminal investigators in-house.
Of these thousands of investigators, a great many are armed. The Department of Education, Railroad Retirement Board, and dozens of other federal agencies have their own SWAT teams. In May, the Department of Agriculture put in a request to procure .40 caliber submachine guns. The hazard here should be obvious—as Homer observed millennia ago, “iron by itself can draw a man to use it.” And sure enough, in recent years we’ve seen a spate of uses of force by regulatory agencies.
Last October, the EPA examined the paperwork of a family-owned mining operation in Chicken, Alaska—population seven—by showing up in flak jackets and M-16s, provoking outrage among members of Congress. Thanks to a recent regulatory change, the FDA is no longer required to get a court order before seizing food it deems unsafe. The result has been multiple armed raids on sellers of raw milk, including a health food store in California and an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania—twice. In 2011, a SWAT team from the Department of Education kicked down a man’s door at 6 a.m., handcuffed him, locked his three kids in a police car for hours, and ransacked his house because his estranged wife was suspected of student loan fraud. A federal SWAT team raided the studio of an Atlanta deejay in 2007 in an attempt to enforce copyright laws, though the suspect was apparently uninvolved in any commercial piracy. And so on.
Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, has proposed a remedy to the problem of zealous and violent federal enforcement entitled the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act. The bill would freeze weapons purchases by civilian agencies, who would then have 90 days to justify their need for “specialized units that receive special tactical or military-style training,” along with detailing the weapons they possess, the cost of maintaining such units, and the circumstances under which they have been deployed. Agencies would have to issue such reports annually. The bill would also negate a 2002 law that empowered 60 inspector general offices to arrest suspects.
Stewart’s bill has 28 cosponsors, and industry groups such as the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance—perhaps wary of being on the business end of a .40 caliber submachine gun—are supportive. “If agency officials face a situation in which armed backup is truly called for, they can go through the proper procedures to have support from the Department of Justice,” they noted in a July 29 press release.
Stewart’s bill is a sensible way to begin to limit what seems to be too much regulatory enforcement at gunpoint. Surely the growing ranks of armed federal agents are one of the least defensible aspects of our runaway administrative state. When the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, they considered all Americans as potential members of the militia largely as a response to the fact that the crown had empowered special militias who often served their own aims rather than the public interest. It should not be surprising that when federal agencies have largely unchecked power to impose their will with their own little militias, it leads to abuse. It’s an abuse that shouldn’t be hard for Congress to stop.
5:26 PM, Jun 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama blasted gun violence in a Tumblr event today at the White House. He said that it's "off the charts" here in America.
"This is becoming the norm," he said. "We should be ashamed."
Here's the pool report:
Pres Obama, in response to a question that Karp said was submitted a few days ago from a tumblr user about mass shootings, declared that as president "my biggest frustration so far is that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps" to curb gun violence.
He cited the failed effort to toughen background checks.
'It’s not even close.'7:01 AM, Apr 16, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former New York City mayor is pledging to spend $50 million this year to push gun control, the New York Times reports. For this and other deeds (such as taking on obesity and smoking), Bloomberg believes he's going to heaven.
7:12 AM, Jan 8, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are scheduled to make a joint appearance at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, MD. The purpose of the visit is to hold a roundtable with students on "Solutions to Enhance School Climate/Improve Discipline Policies and Practices" and to make an announcement, accompanied by "civil rights advocates and local community members."
5:21 PM, Dec 3, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Chuck Schumer will introduce legislation to make it illegal to make guns with 3-D printers, according to the Huffington Post. He's expected to introduce the bill in the Senate next week.
10:24 AM, Nov 8, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the return of 2 rifles that were, as O’Ryan Johnson of the Boston Herald reports, “stolen from an FBI SWAT emergency response vehicle.”
8:29 AM, Nov 5, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The National Football League recently "issued a rule to deny entry to any off-duty police officer who brings a concealed firearm to one of its stadiums …” And, as Eric Katz of Government Executive reports, it is being challenged by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association which represents “more than 26,000 federal workers from more than 65 agencies.”
8:04 AM, Sep 17, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News:
10:58 AM, Aug 20, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Organizing for Action, the group that was President Obama's reelection team, sent out a fundraising pitch to supporters that features the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.
"My son, Daniel, was a smart, quiet kid. He'd just become a straight-A student, and he was overcoming his shyness as a new member of the debate team," the pitch, signed by Tom Mauser of Littleton, Colorado, reads.
12:00 AM, Jul 2, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared independence. George Washington declared that day that “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves....The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.” A useful reminder for us, in a week when we rightly celebrate a Declaration, a document embodying a great idea, that speech needs to be backed up by arms, and that all still depends on the "courage and conduct" of our armed forces.
2:01 PM, Jun 30, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Yesterday, millions of Americans received an important email (subject line: "This is important") from no less a personage than the vice president of the United States. Here it is:
8:06 AM, Jun 22, 2013 • By JIM SWIFT
Reports surfaced earlier this week that the webpage of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) appears to have been purchased and hosted by City of New York.
1:09 PM, Jun 14, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
With an email today from the daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the group formerly known as the Obama reelection campaign, Organizing for Action, is reigniting the fight over guns in America.
"My mom, Dawn Hochsprung, was the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut," the email from Erica Lafferty begins.
"Six months ago today, she was shot and killed in her school, along with five of her coworkers and 20 of her students."
The message continues: