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During this heated election season, the politicians and the pundits banter back and forth about the economy, jobs and important social issues, with back-to-back TV commercials making claims and accusations followed immediately by the opposition’s counter-claims and counter-accusations. But in the midst of all of this political wrangling, the Obama administration’s war on gun owners – in the name of the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on gun trafficking to Mexico and what used to be called the war on terror – rages on.

When I first wrote about the outrageous assault on the Reese family gun shop in Deming, N.M., I expressed concern that the case was apparently headed up by the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. My concern about this shift in policing has grown since that report as Homeland Security Investigations has become more and more prominent in reports of federal police actions.

Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, has quickly become one of the highest-profile federal police organizations in the U.S., competing with the FBI, DEA and ATF for attention and tax dollars. That statement is particularly disconcerting when you realize that there is no provision in the Constitution for any federal police force. The idea of federal police pursuing criminals and violently executing warrants upon the general citizenry would have been abhorrent to the framers. The fact that these agencies blatantly instigate and engage in all manner of illegal activities – such as money laundering, drug smuggling and weapons trafficking – as an “investigative technique” to try and catch criminals higher up in the criminal food chain, would be unthinkable to them.

There are currently more than 70 different federal law enforcement agencies employing over 120,000 officers with arrest and firearms authority, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics data for 2008. That’s an increase of nearly 30 percent between 2004 and 2008. If the trends have continued upward at a relatively steady rate, that would put the total number of federal law enforcement officers at somewhere between 135,000 and 145,000. That’s a pretty staggering number, especially when you consider that there are only an estimated 765,000 state and local law enforcement officers. That means that about one in seven law enforcement officers in the country works directly for the federal government, not a local jurisdiction.

All without any constitutional authority for their existence.

Good arguments can be made for the existence of a dedicated border guard, and a case can be made for federal agencies to protect high-ranking officials, protect the federal currency and coordinate enforcement of laws regarding interstate commerce, etc. – but bureaucrats who inspect the records of retailers and manufacturers have no business carrying guns and badges, nor do those who investigate white-collar crime for the Small Business Administration and the Department of Education.

The Founding Fathers feared the rise of a strong centralized government and especially feared a “standing army” under the control of such a centralized government. The impracticality of not having a standing army was quickly recognized and by the end of the War of 1812. A full-time federal fighting force was an excepted norm, though certain limits and precautions were put in place to ensure that this force would not be used to abuse the several states and the people. Most of those safeguards fell away, as did the concept of independent states loosely united under a compact of cooperation called the Constitution, during and after the Civil War.

While many believe that the Posse Comitatus Act protects the citizens from the ominous specter of the U.S. Army policing their streets, the widely misunderstood act offers no such protection. Posse Comitatus is the power of local authorities to conscript citizens to assist in a law enforcement action – i.e. the sheriff forming a posse to chase down bank robbers. What the Posse Comitatus Act does is prohibit local authorities from conscripting members of the military into their posse. It further instructed the Department of Defense to institute regulations prohibiting military personnel from engaging in law enforcement activities without the express authority of the Constitution or Congress. Since Congress has abdicated much of its authority over the military to the president, giving him wide discretion in employing the military, it would probably be legal for him to direct military forces to engage in law enforcement activities within the United States for a short duration – without declaring a state of emergency or officially declaring martial law – until Congress either backed him up or backed him down.

Debate over Posse Comitatus is made somewhat irrelevant, though, in light of the fact that there are nearly 150,000 armed federal agents who have virtual carte blanch and can now, in essence, conscript state and local police agencies to assist them in their actions.

When Homeland Security Investigations decided to stage an assault on the empty home and business of Rick and Terri Reese, they did so not only with dozens of federal agents, but with dozens and dozens of officers from state, local and county agencies – including helicopters and armored personnel carriers. Now all of those participating agencies are standing with their hands out waiting for a federal judge to decide how much, if any, of the Reeses’ property will be returned to them and how much of it will be divvied up between federal and local agencies.

As federal power grows and state and local authority is subjugated, the U.S. is simply a matter of degrees away from the definition of a “police state.” The corruption of power is palpable.

Note: I had the opportunity recently to visit with Terri and Remington Reese and view the aftermath of the federal assault on their home and business. The condition of their shop was outrageous and heartbreaking. Most significant were the stacks of empty rifle boxes representing hundreds of brand new guns thrown unprotected into 50 gallon drums and hauled away.

It is unlikely that they will recover any of the guns or ammunition, and they are going to have to fight to recover the thousands of dollars worth of empty gun safes, vehicles, cash, jewelry, and the deed to their home and property.

Rick, Ryin and Terri are still awaiting sentencing, but the government is proceeding with forfeiture action based on the charges for which the family was acquitted.

Anyone wishing to help can send contributions to:

REESE DEFENSE FUND
ATTENTION Patricia Arias
First Savings Bank
520 South Gold
Deming, NM 88030

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