GOP rep wants to cut funding for federal ‘paramilitary units’ after BLM dispute

A Republican congressman wants to crack down on the proliferation of armed law enforcement units within the federal government, on the heels of the standoff last month between supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and a federal land agency.

Both sides of that standoff -- agents with the Bureau of Land Management, and states' rights protesters who streamed into Nevada -- were armed, leading the BLM to back down for fear of violence.

But Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart told The Salt Lake Tribune that the BLM doesn't need an armed unit in the first place. He's reportedly looking at ways to cut funding for what he calls "paramilitary units" and require them to rely on local law enforcement instead.

"There are lots of people who are really concerned when the BLM shows up with its own SWAT team," he told the newspaper. "They're regulatory agencies; they're not paramilitary units, and I think that concerns a lot of us."

The bill could apply to a host of federal agencies, including the BLM, IRS and others.

More On This... previously reported, followed controversy over a separate armed raid by the EPA last year in Alaska, that 40 federal agencies have armed divisions. This includes nearly a dozen typically not associated with law enforcement.

    The agencies employ about 120,000 full-time officers authorized to carry guns and make arrests, according to a June 2012 Justice Department report.

    Though most would expect agents within the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Prisons to carry guns, agencies such as the Library of Congress and Federal Reserve Board also employ armed officers.

    Among those with the largest armed units are the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Park Service.

    A BLM spokeswoman told the Tribune that the BLM and Park Service had law enforcement on the scene in Nevada to ensure safety -- and that, with just 300 officers covering millions of acres of public land, they already coordinate with local law enforcement.

    But Stewart says they should be able to rely on the local sheriff in these types of incidents.

    Other lawmakers, though, are focusing more on the armed militia members who showed up to protest agents taking Bundy's cattle over a grazing fee dispute.

    KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported that Sgt. Tom Jenkins, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said officers were concerned for their lives.

    "We didn't show any fear that day, but I can tell you, we all thought in the back of our minds, we all thought it was going to be our last day on earth, if it went bad," he reportedly said.