The sighting of a Department of Homeland Security Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) at a gas station near Ybor City, Fla. on Wednesday is raising questions, concerns and fears about what the federal government is foreseeing in terms of likely needs for such armed and armored transports. An additional big unknown at this time is what congressional oversight protections exist for if and when they are deployed in domestic situations.
Compounded by the administration’s now “on the radar” push to further restrict civilian firearm ownership, the recent controversy over the potential use of drones over American soil to kill citizens without due process, and a longstanding and documented train of abuses tied to the militarization of law enforcement activities, those who keep an eye on such things are noticeably distressed. In the absence of once-pledged administration transparency and a vigorous and motivated watchdog press, civil libertarians are left with only speculation, and some are wondering if the predictable result, keeping activists on edge, is intentional.
Among stated concerns include the obviousness and normalcy of it all. The vehicle, with has stopped at a public gas station, is flying a big American flag and has the DHS logo prominently displayed on its side. The government is not trying to hide the existence of these platforms on U.S. soil, they are normalizing it. As an interesting aside, when gun rights activists do this with firearms by openly carrying them, “progressive” politicians try to gin up public hysteria and loathing, and even some ostensible Second Amendment supporters have been known to issue public condemnations as being unnecessarily provocative and harmful to “the cause.” But let Napolitano’s shock troops roll into the local Hess station, and aside from public fascination, the same countrymen who would react to one of their own being armed with disapproval or worse accept it without question, much as they do the presence of TSA at airports -- and that should also concern the civil rights-minded.
So what can these babies do?
“Note that these beasts, which carry a squad of troops in the back, have a ring mount for belt-fed heavy weapons on the roof,” a source with extensive military experience tells Gun Rights Examiner. “They can throw an Mk19 grenade launcher or an M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun on the roof ring mount at a moment's notice. They have firing ports on each side, so that the Special Response Team (SRT) troops can fire their fully-automatic true assault weapons through the four-inch-thick windows, which are able to stop .50 caliber rounds coming the other way.”
And the administration does not trust We the People with semi-automatics (while designating their own select fire arms as "Personal Defense Weapons")?
No wonder speculation is running at fever pitch in some circles, and that leads to wild speculation, which may or may not end up being wild enough. The problem is, with the lack of transparency, oversight and reporting, such speculation, when disputed, can, is and will be used to try to discredit (and ridicule) any who express related concerns, and one that is being so dismissed is a report that DHS has purchased “2,700 light-armored tanks.”
“The vehicles in question aren’t tanks and they aren’t for DHS,” “Running Wolf” blogger Michael Malone counters, along with a link to the procurement contract summary for 2,717 units by the United States Marine Corps. “[U]ntil someone shows me a procurement order for DHS, I don’t buy it.”
That’s a reasonable challenge and deserves to be taken seriously. It’s one that our representatives ought to ask about and demand a straight answer for.
“Some small portion of these MRAP’s may end up being given to the DHS, assuming the Marines have enough ‘extra’ that they are going to get rid of a few,” Malone continues. “Marines rarely do this. They are the land fighting arm of a procurement system that does naval fighting, so when they get something they tend to keep it a while.”
That’s more speculative on his part, and as long as that’s acceptable for him to do, it seems fair to point out that anticipated diminished operations in Afghanistan combined with the Marine Commandant advising his troops that sequestration necessitates drastic “Save every round, every gallon of gas” measures, belt-tightening could make the manning, staffing, storing and maintenance of so many APCs a logical drain to start plugging.
That also makes fair some additional questions raised by my former military source, who asks “How many of them does the DHS have? How many are they going to get? What is their stated mission?
“If you see these monsters, photograph them and post the photos on Twitter #DHSMRAP,” he advises, creating a stated intelligence-gathering mission for concerned activists.
“If you see them, report them,” he urges.
Depending on one’s level of trust for this administration and its Homeland Security Secretary, his dire concerns will obviously not be shared by all. What should be are his questions, and one should not have to go tracking down links and sorting through motivations and agendas to get straight answers. Above all, any debate should not be dependent on ideologically-based speculation.
We have an idea on the criteria used to deploy SRTs, which raise concerns of and by themselves as to what should constitute a legitimate need for such force. Adding MRAPs into the equation is cause for even greater scrutiny.
Unless they agree that a purpose of DHS should be to incite fear and to create an impression of absolute supremacy to a populace occupied by a standing army, which is kind of difficult to square with the core servant government purpose “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” any congressional representatives not openly seeking these straight answers, as well as controls outside of the executive branch to ensure against abuse, is either being negligent in his or her duties or deliberately indifferent to them.
UPDATE: The Homeland Security Today blog reports 32 MRAPs in DHS ICE/CBP service with no on-file Requests for Proposal to procure more. It goes on to decry "paranoid comments" on blogs and explain how these vehicles are used not just for border protection but also for a variety of "criminal operations." That no one foresaw the need to be proactive in announcing the acquisitions is one reason why it's more than a bit unfair to chastise people for speculating, and it certainly does nothing to alleviate a need for special separation of powers oversight when MRAPs are used in domestic law enforcement and other deployments.
My latest GUNS Magazine "Rights Watch" column is now online. Click here to read "A Shotgun Approach," starring noted defensive gun use expert Joe Biden.
If you're a regular Gun Rights Examiner reader and believe it provides news and perspectives you won't find in the mainstream media, please subscribe to this column and help spread the word by sharing links, promoting it on social media like Facebook (David Codrea) and Twitter (@dcodrea), and telling your like-minded friends about it. And for more commentary, be sure to visit "The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance."