President Obama is tripling the number of Cabinet agencies with gun control law enforcement responsibilities in his new bid to track guns, adding six agencies to the three typically included–Justice, Homeland Security and Defense.
Section 1.e of his executive order released Wednesday adds State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Veterans Affairs. It reads: “For purposes of this memorandum, ‘Federal law enforcement agencies’ means the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, the Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, and such other agencies and offices that regularly recover firearms in the course of their criminal investigations as the President may designate.”
Most federal agencies have a police or security arm, but typically law enforcement doesn’t included those other six agencies. Justice, in fact, defines law enforcement this way on its web page:
“A federal law enforcement agency is an organizational unit, or subunit, of the federal government with the principle functions of prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders. Examples of federal law enforcement agencies include the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). BJS has surveyed federal law enforcement agencies seven times since 1993. The 2008 Census of Federal Law Enforcement Officers (FLEO) included agencies that employed full-time officers with federal arrest authority who were also authorized (but not necessarily required) to carry firearms while on duty. The officer counts exclude officers in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Air Marshals. Findings are based on the 2008 Census of Federal Law Enforcement Officers.”
Watchdog blogger Jeryl Bier, who pens the blog Speak with Authority, called the expansion “sweeping,” although he conceded that it is unclear why the definition has been expanded from three federal agencies to nine. It appears, however, that the president is signaling to all Cabinet agencies that he expects them to help track guns.
“This is a pretty sweeping definition compared to the Justice Department’s definition,” Bier blogged Wednesday. “Since the memo also addressed other executive departments and agencies,’ it is unclear what this partial deputizing of other agencies as ‘law enforcement’ means.”