The Justice Department is slated to conduct a full inventory of guns possessed by the Nation’s various bureaucratic Federal agencies for the first time in six years following complaints from conservatives and libertarians about an increasingly armed government.
By 2015, the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is expected to report to the public how many weapons the government agencies possess as well as how many Federal bureaucrats are armed and have the authority to make arrests.
A similar review conducted in 2008 found that the majority of the Nation’s 120,000 armed agents belonged to the Department of Homeland Security or branches of the Justice Department. About 20 percent of the armed agents, however, were members of lesser-known armed divisions of bureaucratic institutions like the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration.
The issue of the government firepower got a great deal of attention in April when the Bureau of Land Management sent heavily armed agents to force Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to remove his cattle from Federal land.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised issue with the BLM’s heavy show of force at the time.
“[T]he Federal government shouldn’t violate the law, nor should we have 48 Federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams,” Paul said.
This month, a USDA equipment order for the purchase of.40-caliber submachine guns with 30-round magazines again raised concerns about heavily armed bureaucrats.
USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe says the guns are needed by the more than 100 agents employed by the law-enforcement division of the department’s Office of the Inspector General. They’ve carried machine guns for 20 years, she notes. USDA OIG officers “are placed in very dangerous law enforcement situations,” another USDA official told POLITICO. “They make arrests, they serve subpoenas and they engage in undercover operations.”
The Justice Department’s last inventory of the government’s firepower showed that Uncle Sam armed an additional 15,000 agents from 2004 to 2008. It’s likely that the latest review will reveal a much larger jump in the number of armed bureaucrats in the U.S.