Free Market Central Interview: Why Does 'The Swamp' Need Guns?

Free Market Central

Politicians rush to condemn gun ownership by private citizens. But what about federal bureaucrats?  In Part II of his Free Market Central Interview, Open The Books CEO Adam Andrzejewski discusses how his watchdog organization has uncovered a virtual arms race taking place among non-military agencies within the federal government.  From the IRS to even the Small Business Administration, agencies are arming themselves at an alarming rate. They're buying deadly, military-style equipment, from glock pistols to lethal hollow-point bullets outlawed by the Geneva Convention. Should citizens be concerned? Andrzejewski certainly is. 

Open The Books, your non-profit watch-dog organization, has achieved spectacular success tracking government spending.  Your report, “The Militarization of America” uncovered a chilling trend — the increasing purchases of military-style weaponry by non-military agencies.

Everyone knew that the federal agencies were arming up. However, we were the first to analyze the sheer growth. The federal government has grown significantly in size, scope and power. Our report quantified the agencies outside of the Department of Defense and their $1.5 billion procurement of guns, ammunition and military-style equipment.

You discovered something that many Americans will find hard to fathom: the number of armed federal employees is greater than the number of U.S. Marines.

That’s right. As a part of our report, we detailed more than 200,000 federal employees with arrest and firearm authority. This number exceeded the number of U.S. Marines at 182,000. This story broke on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal in a co-authored piece with our Honorary Chairman Dr. Tom Coburn - the retired U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. The piece was titled, 'Why Does the IRS Need Guns?'

Open The Books has reported that not only the IRS, but many other agencies, like the Small Business Administration, also buy guns. Why on earth do they need them?

They don't need them. Many of these rank-and-file federal agencies received arrest and firearm authority after 9/11 in 2001. Legislation to rescind their powers should be fast tracked.

Gun control advocates assail ownership of assault weapons. Yet those very guns are carried by IRS agents.

An IRS Special Agent gets to carry an AR15 in certain circumstances. Another agency, Health & Human Services, trains special agents on heavy military-style weapon platforms by the same vendors that train our Special Forces warriors. Things are a bit out of control.

“Out of control” seems like an understatement. How do these bureaucracies explain their need for guns?
We reached out to spokesmen at the IRS, EPA, VA, HHS and the Animal Health Inspection Service. All of the agencies made a public purpose argument as to why they need arrest and firearm authority. They argue that it's a dangerous world.

So dangerous that they need assault weapons?  Some of the bureaucracies named in your report have no obvious law enforcement function—like the Small Business Administration. Why do they need to arm themselves?

They've never issued a statement on the matter. But they’ve recently spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on Glock and ammo procurement.

   Adam Andrzejewski, CEO, Open The Books

Another agency named in your report was the Department of Education. Sounds like they have a virtual mini-army.
The D.o.E is armed and ready with 88 law enforcement officers. They've purchased buckshot for their shotguns, 40 cal ammo for their glocks, body armor. Their spending on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment was up 25 percent during the last two years under the Obama Administration.

Then there's the Department Homeland Security. We’d expect them to have weapons—but bayonets and hollow-point bullets? What's the rationale?
There are many more questions than answers. Between 2008 and 2012, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents only shot 881 bullets in the line of duty. So, we don't know why DHS purchased a half million hollow-point bullets, or why they felt the need to procure 1.7 billion bullets (2004-2014).  Why did DHS procure 4,700 bayonets from military surplus? That's not a law enforcement weapon.

Is anyone questioning this madness?

Dr. Coburn has called for an 'assault weapons' ban at the IRS. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform also held a hearing conducted by then-Chairman Jason Chaffetz on July 7, 2016. Chaffetz, with Rep. Mark Meadows, asked an official from Department Of Homeland Security about the agency’s arms purchases. They also asked them how the department lost 1,000 weapons - including an Uzi and a grenade launcher. The directors in the hot seat never really answered.

What became of those hearings?

Legislation was drafted and submitted. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will issue a report soon. Unfortunately, the wheels of reform grind slowly. 

That’s for sure. Thank you for calling attention to this alarming story, and for doing such important work.

[Readers who missed Part I of Adam’s FMC Interview can find it here.]


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