Library IG Officials May Lose Gun Privileges

Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:27pm

A provision buried in the omnibus package would curtail the authority of the inspector general who conducts criminal investigations at the Library of Congress.

For 10 years, the Library’s IG office has pursued investigations with the help of a few employees who are deputies of the U.S. Marshals Service. Three or four Glock handguns sit in an office safe, ready if those deputies need to execute a search warrant or make an arrest.

But a section of the omnibus prohibits the Library IG from using funds to “purchase, maintain, or carry any firearm.—

The provision has been pushed by House appropriators, who consider it a clarification to the statute that created the office — a law that doesn’t overtly give any Library IG employees the authority to carry guns.

“Concerns were raised by both majority and minority members of the subcommittee during our spring budget hearings regarding the authority of these Inspectors General to carry firearms under their existing legislation,— said Jonathan Beeton, spokesman for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. “The Inspectors General will be able to continue to perform their work under this provision.—

Library IG Karl Schornagel declined to comment. But, at a hearing last year, he told Members that more than 30 executive branch IG offices have gun-carrying employees and more than a dozen of them aren’t given that authority in a statute.

Waiting for the help of local law enforcement in a search or arrest can mean a case going cold, he said after that hearing.

“I just hope people can appreciate why we need them,— he said. “A gun on the hip talks. … If you were searching a house and if you weren’t wearing a gun, someone might challenge you. Those are the differences that wearing a gun makes. It’s a big communicator.—

The provision also applies to the Architect of the Capitol’s IG. But that office was created recently.

“Our position is new, and we haven’t had the scenario where we needed to do that activity,— AOC spokesman Mike Culver said. “I’m not aware of any concerns at this time.—

The LOC’s office, however, has dealt with several criminal cases in the past year, involving two gift shop cashiers who took money from the register, a human resources department employee who allegedly stole the identities of five colleagues and an employee who is facing child pornography charges.

LOC spokesman Matt Raymond said the law gives the IG’s office many options when pursuing a criminal case, including “asking appropriate agencies to issue and serve warrants, to make arrests, and to detain suspects.—

“Library of Congress Inspector General investigators are supported in their work and can be reinforced by armed law enforcement officials when needed,— he said in an e-mail. “Library police and U.S. Capitol Police are available to support the IG in the course of investigations conducted on Library premises.—

Off Library property, the IG office works in tandem with the local law enforcement agency in the area. But in those instances it still conducts the investigation and acquires the search warrant. Now the office will have to wait while another another agency applies for a search warrant, executes it and makes arrests.

But at last year’s hearing, then-ranking member Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said he thought it was a “separation of powers issue— since the legislative branch employees were essentially working under the authority of the Department of Justice.

“You’re basically under the control of the executive branch,— he said.

The subcommittee’s new ranking member has a different view, however, indicating that there could be discussion on removing the provision in the next appropriations bill.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said he would “monitor this issue very closely in the weeks to come.—

“I am a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights for all Americans as I believe that our nation’s founders intended for gun possession to be an individual right,— he said. “The safety and protection of each employee and visitor at the Capitol and The Library of Congress is a top priority of every Member in the House of Representatives.—