Why does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) need guns? And why do they need suppressors for those guns? And while the National Institutes of Health (NIH) might be known for giving out “shots,” those involve a needle, not a 9 mm hollow-point slug.
On this week’s podcast, hosts Peter Schweizer and Eric Eggers have a fun, cheerful conversation about the worrisome numbers of federal agency personnel who are packing heat, including some you probably didn’t expect.
The U.S. government’s non-military federal agencies, including HHS and NASA, have become increasingly militarized over the years. These non-military federal agencies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on weapons and tactical equipment. The IRS spent almost $700,000 on ammo this year. Agencies such as the IRS and EPA, have used their weapons and tactical equipment in raids and investigations of U.S. homes and businesses.
In addition, the IRS spent nearly $11 million on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment for its 2,316 “special agents” who are authorized to carry weapons. The IRS, by the way, has a history of failing to meet gun qualification and safe usage practices.
Even the Bureau of Engraving, which is the Treasury Department agency that runs the US Mint, has gun-toting employees. Why? Are they expecting a real life Goldfinger to attack Fort Knox, like a James Bond movie?
Eric notes that a great source for listeners to learn about contracts the federal government has with firearms and ammunition suppliers is found at USASpending.gov, itself a government site. Here’s an example of contracts for weapons over the past several years.
Peter notes this startling statistic: today, there are more armed federal bureaucrats than there are US Marines.
Then again, the US Marines never had to take on the gold-mining town of Chicken, Alaska, population 17.
According to witnesses, eight fully armed EPA agents “surged out of the wilderness” in tactical gear back in 2015. The EPA said the raid was conducted to look for possible violations of the Clean Water Act. “Environmental law enforcement, like other forms of law enforcement, always involves the potential for physical, even armed, confrontation,” the agency said in defending the raid on the tiny, remote town.
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell was not happy. “This level of intrusion and intimidation of Alaskans is absolutely unacceptable,” the governor said in beginning an investigation.
This was not even the first time that armed EPA guards have been accused of intimidating behavior. In May 2012, North Carolina resident Larry Keller was visited by armed EPA agents after he emailed Al Armendariz, a regional EPA administrator who was video-taped saying his enforcement strategy was to “crucify” executives from big oil and gas companies.
After a brief but tense exchange with the agents about whether his email was suspicious, Keller said, “The charter of the EPA is to protect the environment and public, not to act as a quasi-federal police department.”
Peter talks about how things used to be done. When federal agency personnel would need to visit homes or businesses and there was a possibility that things could become violent, they would take along local police or someone from the sheriff’s office.
“That’s a good way to do it because you’ve got two sides to this,” Peter said. “You’ve got the EPA and you have the landowner. So, let’s say something horrible goes down and there’s a shootout. You at least have somebody that’s independent and not part of this feud – namely, the sheriff’s department or local law enforcement – who can describe what happened on the scene.”
A report by the Government Accounting Office in 2018 noted that the National Institutes of Health, the government agency based in suburban Washington, DC, that has been much in the news because of its COVID responsibilities, owns “pyrotechnics and large caliber launchers.” Eric jokes that it must be for “either Anthony Fauci’s personal defense team… or else they really want you to take that vaccine!”
A taxpayer watchdog group called “Open the Books” released a report in 2016 called “The Militarization of America” that found civilian agencies had spent $1.48 billion on guns, ammunition, and military-style equipment between 2006 and 2014. Their examples included IRS agents with AR-15s and EPA bureaucrats wearing camouflage.”
According to the report, “Regulatory enforcement within administrative agencies now carries the might of military-style equipment and weapons…For example, the Food and Drug Administration includes 183 armed ‘special agents,’ a 50 percent increase over the ten years from 1998-2008. At Health and Human Services (HHS), ‘Special Office of Inspector General Agents’ are now trained with sophisticated weaponry by the same contractors who train our military special forces troops,” they added.
“This why people have become so distrustful of government,” Peter says. But he makes a larger point about how government behaves much the way a hammer is in search of nails. As the late former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said at a cabinet meeting where the Clinton administration was debating sending forces into the conflict in Bosnia, “we have the military. Sometimes we just need to use it.”
While that might be true in foreign policy, having domestic federal agencies armed with their own assault weapons and body armor leads people to fear their own government. Yet, the incentive structures in government are to use (and therefore justify) funds you have been budgeted for this purpose. “Use it or lose it” is a common phrase in agency budgeting circles. So, as Eric notes, the Small Business Administration loads a locker with Glocks and the Fish and Wildlife Service purchases silencers (maybe they don’t want to scare the ducks?) for its previously budgeted arms cache.
Peter notes the irony that these policies are generally supported by people on the political Left who ordinarily support things like gun control and “defunding the police.” Their ethos, he says, “is that guns cause violence. So, why don’t they apply that to this issue as well?”