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Utah's Stewart sponsors bill to ban federal SWAT teams

Published June 23, 2014 9:43 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced legislation on Monday that would prohibit non-law enforcement agencies in the federal government from buying high-power firearms or weaponry as part of a response to the April standoff between the Bureau of Land Management and rancher Cliven Bundy.

Stewart says there's no reason for regulatory agencies to have paramilitary units like the ones present when the BLM, under a court order, attempted to round up cattle on federal lands. The BLM eventually gave up after facing an armed response by Bundy supporters.

Stewart's bill repeals the authority for inspectors general in federal agencies from having arrest or firearm powers — an authority granted to the in-house investigators in creating the Homeland Security Department. It also bars agencies outside the Justice Department, CIA, Homeland Security, Capitol Police and military from purchasing machine guns, grenades and other weapons banned under law.

"I understand that federal agents must be capable of protecting themselves, but what we have observed goes far beyond providing necessary protection," Stewart said in a statement. "When there are genuinely dangerous situations involving federal law, that's the job of the Department of Justice, not regulatory agencies like the FDA or the Department of Education."

Stewart's bill would direct a study to determine what agencies have specialized units that receive tactical or military-style training.

"Not only is it overkill, but having these highly-armed units within dozens of agencies is duplicative, costly, heavy handed, dangerous, and destroys any sense of trust between citizens and the federal government," Stewart said.

tburr@sltrib.com