140923135845-guns-american-flag-story-topThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s internal audit arm has 85 shiny new submachine guns, locked and loaded. They’ve long had a small police force, and they’re not alone, thanks to a mostly forgotten provision in the behemoth 2002 Homeland Security Act that allows federal auditing agencies to equip themselves with agents who carry guns. Criminal investigators at agencies like the USDA, the Small Business Administration and NASA can carry firearms. The USDA first gained the permanent ability to arm its criminal investigators in 1981. Twenty-five other federal agencies gained that permanent ability in 2002 as result of the Security Act. At 73 federal agencies and departments, independent sub-agencies called the Offices of the Inspector General, or OIGs, conduct oversight, perform audits and enforce laws. It is that last function that led the USDA to order the .40-caliber “submachine guns” in May. A spokesman for USDA OIG told CNN that these “semi-automatic” weapons were acquired on September 9, 2014. More