As you get ready to file those tax forms before the annual April deadline, it might interest you to know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently has 15 submachine guns and around five million rounds of ammunition at its disposal.
And while those numbers might seem shocking to many, the IRS isn’t the only federal agency with a stockpile. According to a GAO report from December, a lot of federal agencies have a lot of firepower.
A recent article by Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of Open the Books, a transparency nonprofit, points out some rather eye-popping procurements by federal agencies over the past decade.
The IRS currently has 4,461 guns, including 621 shotguns, 539 rifles, and those 15 submachine guns. The Department of Health and Human Services has over one million rounds of ammunition stockpiled for use.
The VA doesn’t just have red tape and long waiting times, it turns out. The agency also purchased almost 3,000 rounds for each of its almost 4,000 police officers between 2010 and 2017. The agency also has camouflage uniforms, riot gear, and “tactical lighting.”
In total, the GAO report lists “at least $1.5 billion in total” spending on ammunition, firearms, and tactical equipment between the 20 agencies it surveyed from fiscal years 2010 through 2017.
But while the title of Andrzejewski’s post asks why President Trump’s federal agencies have been stockpiling these weapons and ammunition, a great many of the purchases were made during the Obama administration.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the numbers by year, according to Appendix II of the GAO report:
While the IRS hasn’t spent any funds on new hardware since 2014, the agency’s ammunition purchases held somewhat steady into 2017.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s hardware purchases spiked in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but show very little for 2017.
VA law enforcement purchases showed a 2017 spike, though there were steady purchases and a 2011 spike during the Obama years.
HHS has two departments that have purchased munitions: The National Institutes of Health, which saw a spike in firearms buying in 2017, and and the Office of Inspector General, which did almost all of its recent gun shopping between 2010 and 2012.
Furthermore, the same section also outlines why each department and agency listed claims to need the firepower, though some information was deemed “sensitive” by HHS, the IRS, and the Transportation Security Administration and was redacted from the report’s original version.
Why do agencies have all this firepower? According to the report, each of these different agencies has its own federal law enforcement officers (FLEOs). For instance, the EPA’s police program “enforces the nations’ laws by investigating cases, collecting evidence, conducting forensic analyses; and provides legal guidance to assist with prosecutions.” The VA’s police force “Protects veterans by enforcing federal law at VA medical facilities (and some National Cemetery and Benefits locations) and by serving as initial response forces to active threat incidents.” And the NIH has guns to protect “our country’s scientific research and the NIH research community.”
Those explanations may or may not be reassuring to the small-government-minded, who might be coming down with an understandable case of the heebie-jeebies at this point.
Questions such as whether regulatory agencies require their own specific law enforcement capabilities, how much oversight Congress takes over these weapons purchases, and whether or not agencies should be limited in the amount of ammunition they can stockpile at a given time are all fair game. And they should be asked. Do you have to be concerned about a martial law crackdown to wonder if federal agencies stocked on firepower are a good thing?