by Sgt. Patrick Hayes
After the police response to public unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, President Obama announced a White House review of the 1033 military surplus program for local and state law enforcement agencies. That’s the federal program that “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.” So why is President Obama doing this? What’s his agenda? First . . .
politics, of course. As this website pointed out five days ago, the White House review is unlikely to offer anything other than a few rule changes and a new reporting system for police departments accepting loans – note: loans – of ex-military equipment. Eventually.
Second, the review is a good example of what people around here call “look at this baby!” By ordering a review of the 1033 program for local and state police the President draws attention away from a much bigger problem: federal law enforcement participation in the military bonanza.
There are more than 70 Federal law enforcement agencies. We don’t know which ones have benefitted from the transfer of military hardware, but it’s safe to say that all of the agencies with armed agents are in on the exchange program. We’re talking about the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Department of Education, The Department of Agriculture, AMTRAK, even The Library of Congress.
Many of these federal agencies have full SWAT or “Special Response Teams” (e.g., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). All of these units are equipped with ex-military gear, including fully automatic weapons and “flash bang” grenades.
Whether they’ve got a SWAT team or not, all of these law enforcement personnel report to the President of the United States. The Commander-in-Chief has no reason to disarm or disband them. And every reason to keep them locked and loaded with as much firepower – machine guns, MRAPs, helicopters – as the government can muster. All at taxpayer’s expense.
Local and state law enforcement agencies are different. Mr. Obama does not control them. While many members of the public view local and state police as the enemy of liberty, especially after the mishandled Missouri riot control operation, it’s simply not true. The President knows better. He knows that local and state police are a block to his “Feds control everything” agenda.
This president has done everything in his power to nullify States rights. This review is just another attempt to pursue that policy.
The 1033 program transfer to local and state police should continue. It loans all manner of surplus gear to local and state agencies. While the offensive equipment gets all the press, the program also includes first aid kits, HAZMAT suits, power generators, snow removing equipment and more. Though inefficient (ED: what federal program isn’t?), 1033 still saves tens of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer money by reusing existing materials.
Not every police department rubs its hands with militarized glee at 1033. A county near mine just received 30 M16A1 rifles from federal surplus (the only rifle currently available under the program). They took them to a local gunsmith who removed to full auto parts. They are now semi-automatic patrol rifles. The program saved county taxpayers $45k. Same county received two HUMVEES – not MRAPS – for winter weather use. The program saved county taxpayers $60k.
Are Federal law enforcement agencies getting their rifles from the military? Of course not. They buy new rifles using our tax dollars. We couldn’t expect them to use 40-year-old rifles now could we? But if they want to, they can. As the equipment is on loan, ANY Federal agency can take any equipment it wants from any state or local agency at any time.
In theory, the President of the United State could order federal agencies to collect all 1033 equipment – every gun, vehicle, grenade and generator – with a single phone call.
Which brings us to simple point: if this president wants to make a change in policy you can be sure it doesn’t bode well for gun owners. When it comes to restricting local and state police participation under 1033, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.