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Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

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On April 23, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed a law protecting his state’s law enforcement from being converted into an arm of a federal police force.

Not only does House Bill 330 protect the independence of Montana’s law enforcement, but it prevents it from being bribed by the offer of military grade weapons from the federal government, as well.

Section 1 of the new law declares:

A law enforcement agency may not receive the following property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government:

(a) drones that are armored, weaponized, or both;

(b) aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded;

(c) grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers;

(d) silencers; or

(e) militarized armored vehicles.

Section 2 sets additional barriers along the road toward federalization:

If a law enforcement agency purchases property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, the law enforcement agency may only use state or local funds for the purchase. Funds obtained from the federal government may not be used to purchase property from a military equipment surplus program.

 This provision refers to the “1033 program” established by the Department of Defense that sells surplus military weapons, vehicles, and technology to local law enforcement at a discount price. The idea, of course, being that once a police department or sheriff’s office becomes a recipient of this martial materiel, it is a de facto dependent of the federal government.

The Pentagon isn’t the exclusive provider of formerly federal arms and equipment, however. The Department of Homeland Defense (DHS) is another rich source of federal largesse.

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