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Posted at 3:40 PM ET, 03/18/2010

DOE's pistols and shotguns

By Valerie Strauss

The Education Department's weapons arsenal is larger than I thought.

I wrote last week that the Education Department is purchasing 27 Remington Brand Model 870 police 12-gauge shotguns, a somewhat surprising purchase for that particular agency.

The guns are being purchased for Education's Office of Inspector General, the department's law enforcement arm, which is responsible for detecting waste, fraud, abuse and other criminal activity involving federal education funds, programs and operations. They will replace aging weapons in the office's possession.

I wanted to know more and asked department officials how many guns were in the office’s arsenal, for what missions weapons would be needed, how many agents carried weapons and whether any shots had ever been fired by an agent on duty.

Here’s what OIG Public Affairs Liaison Catherine Grant told me:

*The Office of the Inspector General has 100 special agents and each is issued a .40-caliber Glock pistol. Agents carry handguns in the regular course of their duties.

*The planned purchase of 27 shotguns will bring the office’s total to 52. Agents carry shotguns when conducting high-risk arrest and search warrant operations, which is standard practice for law enforcement.

*The office’s special agents have never had to discharge their firearms in the line of duty.

The Web site of the inspector general’s office lists by year the many fraud and other investigations in which gun-carrying agents were involved. The list is long--but, really, do the agents need to carry guns?

If anybody knows, please explain in the comments or at

Disclosure: Several segments of Kaplan, the education company owned by The Washington Post Co., are the subject of reviews by the U.S. Department of Education, the company recently reported in its annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Cities with campuses under review include Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A Kaplan spokesman said the department "routinely conducts program reviews as part of its oversight."


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By Valerie Strauss  | March 18, 2010; 3:40 PM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan  | Tags:  ed department guns, education department  
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In American police culture, the gun is more of a "badge of office" than anything else.

It's a macho talisman that says "I have the power, and you do not. I can kill you and get away with it." It's a rush. It's a perk. It's THE reason many people become cops.

Do the Kindergarten Kops 'need' guns? Not a chance. Will they carry them anyway, just because "that's what cops do" in America? You betcha!

Posted by: 12008N1 | March 18, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Federal law enforcement officers, including special agents at a the IG offices in a variety of government agencies, are authorized to make arrests for any felony committed in their presence, and they are expected to do so. Some of these felonies are violent, and carrying a firearm is a means of protecting the agent and the public. IG special agents carry guns at the National Archives and Records Administration, NASA, the State Department, HUD, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority -- everywhere in the federal government. has a list of all federal inspectors general. The powers and duties of inspectors general and their special agents are outlined in 5 USC § 6.

The incredulity in this column that federal agents may (gasp) actually be armed is frankly naive. Just because fraud in education programs may seem like an elementary crime does not mean that the people perpetrating it are not graduate-level criminals. The agents never know how someone will react when they show up to make an arrest, and they have to be prepared for anything. To paraphrase Sean Connery's character in The Untouchables speaking to a mild-mannered Treasury agent, "If you carry a badge, carry a gun."

Posted by: JAHatGW | March 19, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

It is easy to see that the person that wrote this article has had a very poor education about law enforcement. They have had a very sheltered life and are unaware of what the criminal mind is capable of. Schools and other government organizations are just as likely to have violent criminals as anywhere else. Just look at the shootings that took place a few years back in the U.S. Postal Service. Schools are no safer that anywhere else in this country.

Posted by: OldCoot1 | March 19, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

I am no NRA gun lover but "duh". In the United States of today, when you arrest anyone for anything, you better have a gun. Where is the author of this article from? Disneyland?

Posted by: sunnydays1 | March 19, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Valerie Strauss' naivete and purported ignorance from the left is matched only by some right wing blogs who saw this as an announcement that Obama Dept of Education agents would soon be landing in black UN helicopters at your kids school.

In reality, every federal agency has an Office of Inspector General. They are involved in all sorts of law enforcement activities, often in partnership with local agencies. When you go to arrest people or carry out a search warrant, people sometimes do crazy things. the subjects in question often are involved in stealing large amounts of money and are going to prison for a long time.

This statement: "The list is long--but, really, do the agents need to carry guns? If anybody knows, please explain in the comments" just seems intentionally obtuse.

Look at the list of crimes at the link.

If you are serving an arrest warrant on someone indicted for stealing $7 million and looking at ten years plus in prison time, should the officer just show up on the doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and ring the doorbell?

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | March 19, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

In a nation that is armed to the teeth these DOE agents would be damned fools to not have arms when making felony arrest. Get real will you.

Posted by: bfc1949 | March 19, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

The various comments that the author is naive and uninformed are right on the mark. I assume the author's expertise is in education matters and not law enforcement, and from now on she should probably stick to what she knows.

Posted by: DaveDC1 | March 19, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

They are law enforcement officers. Of course they should carry firearms. We are asking them to enforce federal law and at times put themselves in danger while doing so. Just like any specialized LEO (such as a game warden), they are also legally responsible for enforcing other laws if they should happen to see one being broken.

I'm not really clear on what the problem is here. Its not like there has been some spate of federal agents from the office of the Inspector General shooting up schoolhouses without any training or oversight.

Posted by: JacksonLanders | March 19, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

The average DCPS teacher works with more violent felons that these ED Scholarship Sleuths are likely to meet in their lifetime.

What other country issues handguns to their education spending auditors?

And in any case, how professionally and ethically responsible is it for these green-eyeshade accountants to pretend that they are qualified to make arrests? I mean, the law says they can, fine. But wouldn't it be more responsible for them to leave the arresting-at-gunpoint thing to those who have frequent professional experience with it? It's like a family doctor doing an appendectomy: sure he can do it, but wouldn't you be better off with someone who does more than one every 20 years or so?

Posted by: 12008N1 | March 19, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

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