Deroy Murdock: What about controlling the federal government's guns?
FBI agents and U.S. Marshals understandably are well fortified, given their frequent run-ins with ruthless bad guys. However - as my old friend and fellow columnist Quin Hillyer notes - armed officers, if not Special Weapons and Tactics crews, populate these federal agencies: the National Park Service; the Postal Inspection Service; the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Labor, and Veterans Affairs; the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Even Small Business Administration and Railroad Retirement Board staffers pack heat!
These "ninja bureaucrats," as Hillyer calls them, run rampant. They, and often their local-government counterparts, deploy weapons against harmless, frequently innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.
. An FDA SWAT unit struck Lancaster, Pa.'s Rainbow Acres Farm in April 2010. From there, farmer Dan Allgyer illegally shipped unpasteurized milk across state lines. Ignoring a woman's right to choose raw milk, Washington launched an armed, federal response against this Amish-run dairy. It subsequently folded.
. When financial questions arose regarding the Mountain Pure Water Company, Washington did not send a few staffers to inspect documents. Instead, last spring, some 50 armed Treasury agents breached Mountain Pure's Arkansas headquarters. They seized records, herded employees into the cafeteria, snatched their cell phones, and refused to let them consult attorneys.
"We're the federal government," Mountain Pure's comptroller, Jerry Miller, says one pistol-packing fed told him. "We can do what we want, when we want, and there's nothing you can do about it."
. A U.S. Department of Education SWAT force burst into Kenneth Wright's Stockton, Calif., home in June 2011. "I look out of my window, and I see 15 police officers," Wright told KXTV. He says one officer forced him by the neck onto the front lawn. "He had his knee on my back, and I had no idea why they were there," Wright said. While officers searched his house, "they put me in handcuffs in a hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids," then ages 3, 7 and 11.
The feds sought Wright's estranged wife, apparently for suspected financial-aid fraud. However, she moved away a year earlier. Regardless, such a mobilization seems unnecessary to probe someone for possibly swindling scholarship money.
. In August 2011, armed federal Fish and Wildlife agents stormed into the Memphis and Nashville factories of Gibson Guitar, which helps Jackson Browne, B.B. King, and other legends sound amazing. What clear and present danger did Gibson pose? Rather than import finished guitar components, it purchased raw ebony and rosewood from India so that American workers - not Indians - could manufacture fingerboards and other electric-guitar parts.
. "SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations," including armed incursions against several black barber shops in Orlando, Florida, according to the Huffington Post's Radley Balko, who studiously chronicles this topic. He recalls a federal SWAT outfit that invaded an Atlanta DJ's studio on suspicion of copyright infringement. When several Tibetan monks on a peace mission overstayed their visas, a federal SWAT unit cornered them. Texas SWAT officers targeted an Austin man accused of stealing koi from a fish pond. And a Virginia SWAT squad killed optometrist Sal Culosi while arresting him for sports gambling.
As gun stores currently enjoy land-sale business, some Americans are arming themselves to insure against circumstances as yet unseen. They justifiably worry that a government that aims gun barrels at Amish dairy farmers is capable of the unimaginable.
Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.