Unbeknownst to most Americans, these agencies and dozens of others employ a steadily increasing number of armed law enforcement officers and have acquired frightening amounts of arms and ammunition. Stewart’s bill, entitled the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act, seeks to strip these agencies of their law enforcement authority and take away their weapons.
“I understand that federal agents must be capable of protecting themselves,” Stewart said. “But what we have observed goes far beyond providing necessary protection…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.”
In 2002, the Homeland Security Act gave dozens of non-traditional agencies the power to arrest people and use military grade firearms. Since then, dozens of agencies from the Department of Labor to the Peace Corps have hired armed officers and employed SWAT – type units.
“Like a lot of times, we write bad legislation in the heat of a crisis,” Stewart said. “We did it with Dodd Frank in reaction to the banking crisis. So that’s exactly what happened here, they gave this authority to federal agencies that never had it before. We have to pull it back now because it creates so much distrust with the America people.”
In recent years, there have been a number of disturbing reports of federal agencies abusing their law enforcement powers.
In 2012, the Social Security Administration requested 174,000 hollow point bullets. More recently, the USDA recently requested the use of .40 caliber submachine guns. And earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security contracted to purchase 704 million rounds over the next 4 years, or 2,500 rounds of ammo per officer, per year.
These requests go far beyond what is necessary and raise legitimate questions about what the ammo is actually intended for. Outside of a war zone, why would DHS need 2,500 rounds of ammunition per officer each year?
Congress should pass the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act and put all the questions to rest.