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February 12, 2013

Column: Control government's guns

As Washington politicians aim to restrict the Second Amendment, they should look in the mirror. The time is now to control government’s guns. Over-armed federal officials increasingly employ military tactics as a first resort in routine law enforcement. From food-safety cases to mundane financial matters, battle-ready public employees are turning America into the United States of SWAT.

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, and often their local-government counterparts, deploy weapons against harmless, frequently innocent Americans who typically are accused of nonviolent civil or administrative violations.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration SWAT unit in April 2010 struck Rainbow Acres Farm in Lancaster, Pa. From there, farmer Dan Allgyer had 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 Mountain Pure Beverage Co. in Arkansas, Washington did not send a few staffers to inspect documents. Instead, last spring, some 50 armed Treasury agents breached the company’s Little Rock headquarters. They seized records, herded employees into the cafeteria, snatched their cellphones and refused to let them consult attorneys.

“We’re the federal government,” Mountain Pure’s comptroller, Jerry Miller, says one fed told him. “We can do what we want, when we want, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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