Doug Wortham, the Sharp County, Ar., coroner, used a Defense Department giveaway program to stock his office with an assault rifle, a handgun and a Humvee, even though the people in his custody are dead, reports the Associated Press. “I just wanted to protect myself,” he said. His office isn’t the only government agency with limited policing powers and a questionable need for high-powered weaponry to take advantage of the program. While most of the surplus weapons go to police departments and county sheriffs, an AP review shows that a diverse array of other state and local agencies also have been scooping up guns and other tactical equipment not needed by the military. “What does a coroner need a big gun for?” asked Marshall County, Il., coroner Davey Lenz, who used the program to obtain body bags. “I have never carried a weapon in my 20 years on the job.”
Military-grade weapons have gone to government agencies that enforce gaming laws at Kansas tribal casinos and weigh 18-wheelers in Mississippi, to the Wyoming Livestock Board and the Cumberland County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Other military surplus items have been bestowed on an animal control department in Cullman County, Alabama; a harbormaster in Dartmouth, Massachusetts; and the California Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms.