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Pass a law, hire a cop.

Let’s face it, the more legislation the federal government approves, the more police power it grabs to enforce it. This is a stark, cold fact seldom considered by members of Congress, the press, ordinary citizens or even the civil libertarians you would most expect to protest the increasing firepower of a rapidly growing standing army of federal police forces.

Who would have expected, for instance, when we created the benign-sounding Environmental Protection Agency a few years ago that in 1997 we would need a force of 200 heavily armed “enviro-cops” to apprehend a new class of environmental criminals?

Is this green militarization really necessary? Ask EPA officials and they tell some revealing stories. They don’t try to justify their Rambo mentality based on past experiences by agents, but by anticipating the worst-case scenarios in the future.

There’s lots of money at stake in environmental crimes, they say. Therefore, it stands to reason that criminal suspects may be desperate. It’s not that they can actually cite any real-life examples of agents facing threats to their physical safety, but they know they’re coming.

One favorite story of EPA officials involves an unnamed agent who, they say, was killed in the line of duty. But, upon further investigation, it turns out the agent was actually killed in an act of random street violence as he was leaving a restaurant after dinner. Indeed, the agent had spent the day conducting a field investigation, but the fatal attack had no connection to his work whatsoever.

If, indeed, this is an argument for arming EPA agents, it’s also an argument for arming every law-abiding citizen in America. After all, don’t we all deserve to be as safe from random street violence as federal employees? But, of course, no one in the federal bureaucracy, in the administration, or, even in Congress, would ever suggest such a thing.

Instead, the trend over the last two decades has been just the opposite — take guns away from citizens and put them in the hands of the government. This is a trend diametrically opposed to both the spirit and the letter of the U.S. Constitution.

But still the trend continues. Today, there are nearly 60,000 armed federal agents running around the country often enforcing laws of little value and questionable constitutionality. And the number is rising — fast.

Just look at the statistics published by the federal government itself. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center graduated 848 students in 1970. By 1976, it was turning out 5,152. Last year, the number had risen to 18,849. This year, the center expects to train 25,077.

Though a fraction of those graduates actually work for local and state law enforcement agencies, the biggest federal police force of all — the FBI’s — maintains its own independent training center. So, if these numbers seem startlingly high, keep in mind the actual increases in federal cops are even higher.

And no one — not members of Congress, the General Accounting Office, nor even the president of the United States — knows for certain exactly what the total number of federal police agents is. That’s one of the problems with bloated bureaucracies — no accountability to the people.

Even more alarming is the way Washington is encouraging networking and cooperation between these law enforcement agencies, in effect, establishing a virtual standing army of central government cops — an idea antithetical to the American constitutional tradition of limited federal power. One of the training center’s goals is to establish the feeling that all these federal agents represent one, big happy “family.” Doesn’t that kind of warm and fuzzy talk just give you goose flesh?

Let’s face it. If the government announced one day that it was creating a vast network of armed federal police forces to enforce the tangled web of U.S. laws, there would probably be some organized dissent. There might even be open rebellion against such a patently un-American plan.

Instead, the government has moved slowly, imperceptibly at first, yet inevitably, toward the goal of establishing a national police force. Now the plan is on the fast track. And only one question remains: Is it too late to turn back?

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