Federal Agencies with Guns: Weather Service, Social Security, Railroad Retirement Board

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Thousands of federal government employees are armed with handguns and even semiautomatic and automatic weapons as part of their jobs for agencies that are not traditional law enforcement operations.


These gun-toting civil servants include those performing missions that involve Social Security, delivering the mail, predicting the weather, and overseeing railroad pensions. Others authorized to carry firearms conduct audits for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


The Social Security Administration has sought to purchase 174,000 rounds of hollow-point bullets, while at least nine agencies have their own SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, including the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Labor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.


With the increase of federal regulatory criminal laws being passed, the number of law-enforcement personnel attached to agencies has gone up as well.  But the traditional law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Marshals Service have been unable to handle all of the demand to execute potentially dangerous investigations, searches and arrests, leading officials at these other departments to develop their own police forces, according to an analysis by Candice Bernd of Truthout.


These forces can take their jobs too seriously. In 2003, Department of Fish and Wildlife agents stormed into the home of George and Kathy Norris of Houston. George Norris imported and sold orchids. He was subsequently accused of smuggling a certain variety of the plant into the United States. Although it was later found that he had only made a few paperwork errors, he ended up pleading guilty to seven counts of violating the Endangered Species Act and served 17 months in prison.


Some lawmakers are starting to think it might be time to scale back on federal criminal codes. Last year, the Over-Criminalization Task Force (part of the House Judiciary Committee) convened for the first time to consider ways to shrink the number of laws and provisions on the books.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

USDA and Submachine Guns: Latest Example of Mission Creep as Federal Policing Expands (by Candice Bernd, Truthout)

Orchid Kingpin? Mistake Lands Elderly Gardener in Prison (by John Jessup, CBN News)


Get Real 10 years ago
It is well-documented that the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not have a SWAT team. The following article debunks the myth and was published just yesterday. You’ll Believe Anything - The Bizarre Backstory of the CPSC SWAT Team Urban Legend http://www.productsafetyletter.com/Free/1992.aspx
Jeff Justis 10 years ago
The author is totally ignorant. Auditors for USDA do not carry weapons. That is illegal. Only investigators with law inforcemenr (arrest) authority carry weapons.
ken 10 years ago
It's for the same reason the Army keeps getting more tanks, to keep the suppliers in business.
anne winn 10 years ago
These agencies it says purchased these weaponry and ammunition. Surplus from our failed war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it appears that it is a way to recoup some of the monumental war expenditure and by fobbing it off to other government agencies, that clearly have little or no need for such fire power. Is it an accounting trick? Does real money change hands between government agencies, are real weapons and ammo delivered or is this just a way to hide another monumental Pentagon rip off. Like the one Rumsfeld told US about one day before 9/11. And trillion dollar discrepancy that was never mentioned again.
Lubber 10 years ago
Ironically, this story is going to outrage the same folks who claim more guns is the answer to violence.
anonamouse 10 years ago
The article beggars the question, "What are they afraid of?" Clearly, there must be a reason for distributing several billion (at last count) hollow-point rounds (enough to shoot every man, woman and child in the US several times over) among such agencies as the Social Security Administration and NASA. Oh wait, it must be because of climate change.

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