Uncle Sam’s auditors carry guns … but why and by whose authority?

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If you were to check the manifest of recent acquisitions made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s internal audit division, you would discover that the group is the proud owner of 85 shiny new .40-caliber submachine guns, locked and loaded.

You read that right. And the USDA is not alone. Criminal investigators with other government agencies, including the Small Business Administration and NASA, are also authorized to carry.

These agencies are authorized to arm themselves thanks to an obscure provision in the 2002 Homeland Security Act. The USDA has been packing heat since 1981. Twenty-five other federal agencies gained that ability in 2002 with passage of the aforementioned law. Among them is the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which in 2010 submitted a purchase order for 27 shotguns.

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