Last May, Sen. Rand Paul proposed an amendment to a spending bill for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce the agency’s police powers. He was especially concerned about “sending armed FDA agents into peaceful farmers’ land and telling them they can’t sell milk directly from the cow.”

He added, “Some of you might be surprised the FDA is armed. Well, you shouldn’t be.” 

Sen. Paul’s proposal (which was roundly defeated, with 15 Senators in favor) prompted a Sarah Lawrence College student, Will Duffield, to file a request under the federal Freedom on Information Act, seeking, “Itemized records of all firearms and destructive devices (as defined in 26 USC § 5845) possessed by the Food and Drug Administration. Additionally, all records pursuant to the acquisition, maintenance, and deployment of said weapons is requested.”

The FDA provided 35 pages of documents showing the purchase of 52 Sig handguns (most with night sights) and 28 Remington shotguns. The purchases were made between 2007 and 2011, according to the documents. (Unfortunately, the documents were larger than this system could accommodate, so I can’t make them available here.)

But that isn’t the entire extent of the purchases. The FDA said in its response to Duffield: “Certain material has been deleted from the records furnished to you because a preliminary review of the records indicated that the deleted information is not required to be publicly disclosed and that disclosure is not appropriate.” 

Why was information deleted? Among the checked-box reasons: 

The information “would disclose techniques, procedures or guidelines for law enforcement  investigations or  prosecutions, if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law” and “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.” 

Also omitted: “Documents constituting records compiled for law enforcement purposes which contain law enforcement techniques, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of laws or regulations, or impede the effectiveness of law enforcement activities.” 

Sounds like the old “protection” excuse to me. The FDA specializes in “protection,” after all–first and foremost about protecting its interests.

I  think it’s safe to assume that these documents describe only the tip of the FDA’s armaments iceberg. There  are a lot of weapons being stashed away in agency offices around the country. And why do they need the night  sights? For night raids of small farms? 

In his Senate speech in favor of the amendment, Rand summarized the situation in alarming terms: “We have nearly 40 federal agencies that are armed. I’m not against having police, I’m not against the army, the military, the FBI, but I think bureaucrats don’t need to be carrying weapons and I think what we ought to do, is if there is a need for an armed policeman to be there, the FBI who are trained to do this should do it. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to be arming bureaucrats to go on the farm to, with arms, to stop people from selling milk from a cow. I think we have too many armed federal agencies, and that we need to put an end to this.”