The Disturbing Trend Toward Federal Police

The House of Representatives recently approved a massive appropriations bill that will fund various Treasury Department agencies at record spending levels. The bill appropriates nearly 30 billion dollars, an increase over last year’s already huge Treasury budget. More disturbing, however, is the whopping 23% increase in funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) contained in the Treasury bill.

ATF gets more than $730 million dollars for fiscal year 2001, an increase of $166 million over its 2000 budget. Why the increase? The administration wants the agency to hire 600 new federal police officers to enforce ever-expanding gun laws. Never mind the obvious failures of gun control legislation and the clear Second Amendment prohibition against such laws. The politicians in Washington are determined to slowly abolish gun rights, and they are determined to use federal police to accomplish the task.

The American public gradually has become aware of the disturbing trend toward federal policing of our nation. Many Americans do not support ATF, especially after the disastrous events at Waco. I was widely attacked in the media and by members of Congress for questioning the government’s actions at Waco, and for merely suggesting that many Americans were concerned by the possibility of federal agents taking violent action against American citizens. Now we have Congress spending more money to increase the budget for ATF, despite its highly questionable actions and the resulting public mistrust of the agency.

It is important to recognize that our federal constitution lists only three federal crimes, namely counterfeiting, treason, and piracy on the high seas. The founding fathers never envisioned a federal police force, knowing that such a force would trample on the right of each state to enact and enforce its own criminal laws. Hence there is no provision for the creation of a general federal police force in the enumeration of congressional powers. Furthermore, the 10th amendment explicitly reserves the general police power to the states individually. Washington politicians, however, have no interest in constitutional limitations when they seek to expand and consolidate their power by federalizing whole areas of criminal activity. They have consistently expanded federal criminal laws, particularly in the areas of drugs and firearms. The result of this expansion is the inevitable call for more federal police to enforce the new laws. We are told we need more ATF agents to monitor firearms, and more DEA agents to wage the “war on drugs.” Congress is not concerned with its lack of constitutional authority to create, much less expand a national police force.

Washington politicians have successfully used recent excessive-force allegations against local police to further their goals. It is convenient to portray local police as violent or racist, and therefore in need of federal oversight and restraint. The question, however, is whether we should trust a federal police force more than we trust our own local authorities. I believe there is a growing recognition that our founding fathers were correct when they prohibited federal government involvement in law enforcement. In Waco, Americans had a vivid example of the impact of the growing police state. With the veneer being stripped from the myth of federal law enforcement, our citizens are beginning to realize that it is both unconstitutional and untenable.

Ron Paul represents the 14th Congressional District of Texas.