Bookmark and Share
Overview:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is a federal law enforcement and regulatory agency with a substantial history in the federal government dating back to the tax-collecting bureaucracy of the 1800s.
 
Historically, the agency has struggled to maintain a balance between its law enforcement duties and its mandate to collect taxes. When the Homeland Security Bill transferred the ATF and its law enforcement functions from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, its former tax and trade responsibilities remained in the Treasury under the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
 
Accordingly, the new ATF mission aims more at preventing violent crime involving firearms and engaging in other anti-criminal activities. The agency is responsible for investigating and preventing crimes involving the unlawful use, manufacture and possession of firearms and explosives, arson and bombings and illegal trafficking or manufacture of alcohol and tobacco products.
 
As the agency responsible for regulation of the gun industry, its efforts at gun safety reform and regulation are often the targets of vehement attacks from right-wing supporters of gun ownership and commerce rights.
more
History:
The oldest tax-collecting Treasury agency, the ATF traces its roots back nearly 200 years, to when Congress imposed a tax on imported spirits to help pay the Revolutionary War debt in 1789. At that time, administration of duties was within the Treasury Department. In 1862, Congress created an Office of Internal Revenue, also within the Treasury Department. The new commissioner was charged with collection of taxes on alcohol and tobacco. In 1863, Congress authorized enforcement measures within the Office to aid in collecting and offsetting criminal evasion, and soon after added legal counsel for prosecution—both features that continue under today’s ATF.
 
In 1886, the Bureau of Internal Revenue began its Revenue Laboratory with a single employee from the Department of Agriculture.
 
In the era of Prohibition, criminal investigations of internal revenue laws became more prominent and were organized under the Prohibition Unit in 1920. As part of an effort to bolster enforcement efforts, the Treasury Department elevated the Unit to bureau status in 1927. In 1930 Congress transferred penal provisions of the prohibition act from the Treasury to a new Bureau of Prohibition in the Justice Department—with the exception of tax-related and regulatory activities.
 
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Federal Alcohol Control Administration (FACA), which aimed to regulate the legitimate alcohol industry. In 1935, the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA, in the Treasury) replaced FACA as regulator of the alcohol industry.
 
After prohibition ended, its policies continued to shape the ATF. In 1934, the Department of Justice’s Prohibition enforcement duties were subsumed into the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) within the Bureau of Internal Revenue, in the Treasury. Meanwhile, FAA, also within the Treasury, oversaw regulation of the alcohol industry. The FAA was merged with the ATU in 1940.
 
In 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act and, four years later, the Federal Firearms Act, for which the Miscellaneous Tax Unit, Bureau of Internal Revenue, collected fees. In 1942 enforcement duties were delegated to ATU. In 1952, the Miscellaneous Tax Unit was dismantled, and its firearms and tobacco tax responsibilities were transferred to ATU. The Bureau of Internal Revenue became the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the IRS renamed the ATU the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division.
 
In 1968, the Gun Control Act gave the ATU’s laboratory responsibility for explosives, and the division title became Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Around 1970, overtures began toward AFT independence. In 1972, a Treasury Department Order transferred IRS power, functions and duties related to tobacco, firearms and explosives to ATF. In the 1970s, ATF demonstrated an ability to prove arson, and in 1982, Congress made clear that arson is a federal crime, and gave ATF responsibility for investigating commercial arson nationwide.
 
In 2003, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and its law enforcement functions were transferred under the Homeland Security bill to the Department of Justice. The tax and trade functions of ATF remain in the Treasury Department with the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency's name was changed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
 

ATF Special Agents Killed In The Line Of Duty

more
What it Does:
The ATF regulates the tobacco, alcohol, firearms and explosives industries by enforcing federal laws relating to these areas. Specifically, it conducts investigations into criminal activities—including the illegal manufacture, sale and transfer of these items. It operates with the aid of specialized task forces and forensic laboratories.
Added to the Bureau in 1886, ATF Laboratories now employ a hundred professionals in four labs, in three cities. A new, $135-million National Laboratory Center in Maryland was established in 2003.
 
As the entity responsible for regulating firearm commerce, the ATF attempts to curb illegal use and sale of firearms by issuing licenses and conducting firearms licensee qualification and compliance inspections. ATF administers the Gun Control Act (GCA), mandates federal licensing standards for firearms manufacturers, importers and dealers.
 
Under authority of sections 924(c) and (e) of Title 18 of the United States Code, ATF targets, investigates and recommends prosecution of “armed career criminals,” “narcotics traffickers,” and “other dangerous armed criminals.” The agency also “strives to increase state and local awareness of available federal prosecution under these statutes,” and issues firearms licenses and conducts firearms licensee qualification and compliance inspections.
 
 
 
More firearms links:
 
The agency uses combined resources to investigate explosives incidents and arsons, including national and international response teams and arson task forces-- consisting of ATF special agents, auditors, technicians, laboratory personnel, and dogs. ATF also provides expertise internationally in post-blast examination and cause/origin determination, and plays a “lead role” in investigations of arson and bombing incidents directed at abortion clinics. The Bureau’s Explosives Program maintains a computerized repository for historical and technical data on national explosives called the Explosives System.
 
Arson and Explosives Programs
 
Tobacco/Alcohol
ATF regulation of the alcohol and tobacco industries includes quality control and consumer safety, taxation, criminal investigation and law enforcement, etc.
 
Gangs

2005 National Gang Threat Assessment

(PDF)

more
Where Does the Money Go:

From 2000-2008 the agency spent a total of $738,892,378 on contracts.

 
Top 10 ATF Contractors:
Electronic Data Systems Corporation
$144,104,293
Groupe Walsh (WAI), Inc.
$75,299,227
Three Saints Bay LLC
$32,582,445
Unisys Corporation
$24,565,494
Telesis Corporation
$23,562,104
Paradigm Holdings, Inc.
$19,880,738
Government of the United States
$19,457,411
Groupe CGI, Inc.
$13,719,135
Sierra Holdings Corp.
$13,031,240
Milvets Systems Technology, Inc.
$11,227,701
more
Controversies:
In a July 2008 Portfolio article exposing how U.S. guns are arming the current violent drug wars in Mexico, reporter James Verini draws attention to how the A.T.F. has been rendered increasingly ineffective in stopping the illicit flow of arms:
 
The A.T.F. is uniquely hamstrung among federal law-enforcement agencies in terms of the information it is permitted to gather and share. Stipulations reiterated in congressional appropriations bills every year forbid the A.T.F. to create a national database of guns or gun owners. The agency can’t monitor guns that manufacturers and importers sell to wholesalers and dealers.

Gun buyers are required to fill out A.T.F. sales forms, but the agency doesn’t collect them; dealers are required to keep the forms. They are also expected to send the A.T.F. multiple-purchase notices for handguns, but given the volume of sales, compliance is all but voluntary, and the rule, amazingly, does not apply to rifles. The National Tracing Center houses 440 million documents, but federal law forbids them from being indexed so they can be searched by name. Most of these records are still on microfiche. The result is not surprising: Nearly half of all traces are inconclusive.

At the same time, becoming a licensed gun dealer in the U.S. is very simple. All that’s required is a completed application, a photograph, and a set of fingerprints for a background investigation. A license entitles anyone to buy guns straight from manufacturers and send them between states or abroad. There are roughly 110,000 licensed gun dealers in the U.S. In Texas and Arizona, as in much of the nation, about half of them don’t have stores; these so-called kitchen-table dealers instead buy and sell guns through the mail or out of their homes or cars. Further, an A.T.F. report found that three-quarters of dealers who sell from commercial premises do so from “businesses such as funeral homes and auto-parts stores.”
 
See also: Mexican cartels look north for arms (Marketplace, American Public Media, June 26, 2008)
And the agency’s press releases/fact sheets on the subject: ATF Expands Efforts to Combat Illegal Flow of Firearms Into Mexico ; Fact Sheet: Project Gunrunner
 
Truscott and Domenech Whistleblower Controversy
Edgar A. Domenech, a 23-year veteran of the A.T.F., filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel in March 2008 alleging that the Justice Department had punished him for questioning the performance of former ATF director Carl J. Truscott. Domenech alleged that his complaints about Truscott, beginning in 2005, were ignored by officials because of Truscott’s ties to the White House (He was the former head of President Bush’s Secret Service Detail before taking over ATF). Truscott resigned in 2006 while under investigation for alleged financial mismanagement.
 
ATF Whistle-Blower Alleges Backlash (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
 
Waco
The 1993 “Waco Massacre” occurred when the ATF attempted to execute a search warrant on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. Local authorities had advised the ATF of large weapon stocks on the compound, which housed members of a religious cult. After four ATF officers and six Branch Davidians were killed in the initial stand-off, a 51-day siege ensued, ending in a fire and the deaths of 76 people. The AFT and federal government have been widely criticized for their handling of the situation.
Who tipped off the media about the Waco raid? (by Robert Bryce, Jim Moore, and Joe Ellis, Salon News)
 
Ruby Ridge
In 1992, ATF agents attempting to apprehend Randy Weaver, a man who failed to appear in court after being charged with selling illegally shortened shotguns to ATF agents, prepared for a tactical assault on the Weaver residence in Northern Idaho. In what came to be known as the Ruby Ridge incident, a confrontation between U.S. Marshals, FBI snipers and the Weavers ended with the deaths of Randy Weaver’s wife and son. Ruby Ridge was an escalation in an era of heightened tensions between the federal government and separatist groups—in this case, specifically white supremacists or sympathizers in the Northwestern U.S.—that also included the Waco incident and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Ruby Ridge Lawyer Offers Help in Montana (by Dirk Johnson, New York Times)
The F.B.I. and Ruby Ridge (editorial, New York Times)
Separatist Family Given $3.1 million from Government (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
A new Ruby Ridge documentary (by Virginia Heffernan, Slate)

more
Suggested Reforms:


 

more
Debate:
Gun Control
The battle over gun control is one of the defining debates in U.S. history. At the most basic level, the conflict is between the Second-Amendment right to own a gun and the government’s responsibility to regulate guns and maintain safety and order.
 
The issue tends to be partisan, with Republicans supporting strong Second-Amendment rights, and Democrats pushing for increased gun control to curb violent crime. However, the debate is also divided along regional/state lines.
 
The gun lobby in the U.S. is massive, with the National Rifle Association (NRA) spending an estimated $40 million during the 2008 election campaign alone. The NRA—labeled the “natural enemy” of the ATF by Gerry Spence, the attorney who defended Randy Weaver after the federal siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho—is among the largest and most powerful gun-rights groups in the country, and can exert considerable influence in U.S. politics. The Gun Control Act of 1968 radicalized politics and the NRA, which shifted from a more benevolent emphasis on sportsmanship to a dogged commitment to deregulate and impede NTA enforcement.
 
Pro-Gun
 
Pro-Regulation
 
Recent Supreme Court Ruling
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the right to keep guns at home for self-defense. It overturned a 32-year ban in the District of Columbia, allowing states to set rules for gun ownership but striking down prohibitions.
New England gun makers hail Supreme Court ruling (by Stephen Reitz, Associated Press)
Council Considering Gun Law Changes (by Nikita Stewart, Washington Post)
Gun ruling won't change much, ATF chief says (by Dane Schiller and Allan Turner, Houston Chronicle)
Obama supports supreme court reversal of gun ban (by Suzanne Goldenberg and Elena Schor, The Guardian)

more
Former Directors:
Report Criticizes Ex-ATF Chief (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
more

Comments

Henry White 1 week ago
P purchased a firearm for my son so he could go to work here in Fla as a G licensed security officer and now he is refusing to repay me for all of the expenses that he owes me for such as his schooling ,holster,and his G licenses,Can i reposses his pistol from him for i have the statement from the bank showing where i got the gun for him.
Deb Simmering 9 months ago
I recently went to a VFW with my sister to pick up her husband and noticed that they were still smoking in this establishment. I am not sure of the number of the VFW but I do know it is on St Rt. 42 in Lexington, Ohio. I had to leave because it was so smoky in there I couldn't breathe. Something should be done about this. If every other business has to make their patrons go outside to smoke this one should to. Thank you for your time.
nadine trombacco 3 years ago
across the street from grandchildren high school is a Hess Gas Station twice i've been in there and seen the cashier sell cigars and lottery tickets to under age student and i told them about and they just brush me off and said i didn't see what i thought i saw i would like to report this Hess Station its in Orlando, Fla on Turkey Lake Blvd and Production at Universal Park across the street from Dr Phillips High School thank you so much
Christopher Hernandez 5 years ago
My name is Christopher Hernandez, and I work as a active Peace Officer for the city of Pharr, Texas. I would like to know if there is any way that I can get any anti-gang posters so that I can give thatm out to schools around the city. Thank you for your help. Respectfully, Officer C. Hernandez

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Founded: July 1, 1972
Annual Budget: $1.11 billion
Employees: 5,0256
Official Website: http://www.atf.gov/
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Jones, B. Todd
Director

In the wake of revelations that an undercover ATF operation designed to track illegal guns purchased in the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels has lost track of more than 1,000 guns, Acting ATF Director Ken Melson was re-assigned to the Justice Department Office of Legal Policy. Attorney General Eric Holder asked B. Todd Jones to serve as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms  and Explosives (ATF), starting on August 31, 2011. Jones was sworn in as ATF director on August 29, 2013. This was not the first time that Jones has been called in to fill a position left open by the resignation of a controversial official.

 

While he was still acting director, Jones continued to serve simultaneously as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.

 

Born May 23, 1957, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones’s father was in the Air Force, and the family moved quite often. After graduating from Wyoming High School in Cincinnati in 1975, Jones earned his B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College in 1979 and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983. During his senior year of college, he worked as an intern in the office of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, and he has said that his internship inspired him to a career in public service, which he also says is “in his blood.”

 

Immediately following admission to the Minnesota bar, Jones went on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as an infantry officer with the 7th Marine Regiment and subsequently as both defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of courts martial proceedings.  In fact, it may be military service that runs in Jones’ family, because his great-great-grandfather served in the Ohio Colored Infantry during the Civil War. 

 

Upon leaving active duty in 1989, Jones worked as an associate attorney at Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly from 1989 to 1992.  In 1991, Jones was recalled as a Marine Corps Reservist for the first war in Iraq and served as the commanding officer of the fourth Marine Division Military Police Company until his honorable discharge in 1998. 

 

During those same years, Jones served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1992 to 1994.  He returned to private practice as a partner with Greene Espel from 1994 to 1997, and served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1997 to 1998.  In 1998, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones as the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, and President Bill Clinton nominated him. He served from 1998 to 2001, resigning upon the election of Republican George W. Bush. 

 

Back in private practice, Jones returned briefly to Greene Espel, but soon left that firm and became a partner at the much larger firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi from 2001 to 2009, where his practice focused on complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense. 

 

In 2009, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones for his old job as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. The previous Attorney, Rachel Paulose, had resigned in 2007 following allegations of mishandling of classified reports and a dictatorial management style. President Obama nominated Jones, and he has served in that role from 2009 to the present. Ironically, six years earlier, in 2003, Jones and Klobuchar clashed in a high profile criminal trial in Minneapolis, with Klobuchar’s office prosecuting former Minnesota Twins baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett for rape and Jones defending him. The trial ended in an acquittal on all charges. 

 

Shortly after beginning his second stint as Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney, Jones was asked by Attorney General Eric Holder to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) of U.S. Attorneys, which provides advice and counsel to the Attorney General on policy, management and operational issues affecting U.S. Attorneys Offices throughout the country, and also represents U.S. Attorneys in the decision-making process at the Department. 

 

Jones will be no stranger to the issues faced by ATF, for during his years as a federal prosecutor, he conducted grand jury investigations and was lead trial lawyer in many federal prosecutions involving drug trafficking, firearms, financial fraud and violent crime.  As U.S. Attorney, moreover, Jones has advocated a community-based approach in dealing with Arab-American communities, many of which feel stereotyped in the current Islamophobic environment. 

 

Jones has been married since 1980 to Margaret Samanant, whom he met in college, and the couple has three sons and two daughters.  According to the website OpenSecrets, Jones has contributed $12,947 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2002. 

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Department of Justice Press Release Announcing the Jones Appointment

Federal Agent: How B. Todd Jones Became the Man to Put the U.S. Attorney’s House Back in Order (by Frank Bures, Minnesota Monthly)

New Acting Director of ATF B. Todd Jones Will Tackle “Lack of Stability” (by Steven John and Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio)

Washington Called, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones Answered (by Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press)

more
Traver, Andrew
Nominee

Having labored under interim directors since 2006, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the Department of Justice may finally get a permanent director. Maybe.

 
President Barack Obama’s selection on November 17, 2010, of Andrew “Andy” Traver, a career ATF agent, to lead the agency was greeted with hostility from the gun-rights lobby. Gaining confirmation of the nomination in the Senate is expected to be a challenge. In fact, prior to 2005, the ATF director did not require Senate confirmation. Republicans blocked President George W. Bush’s nominee, Michael Sullivan, claiming he was not sufficiently sensitive to gun dealers. Since then, the bureau has been run by acting directors, who do not need to be confirmed.
 
Prior to beginning his ATF career, Traver graduated from the Naval Officer Candidate School and from the Surface Warfare Officer School in Coronado, California. Upon graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Benjamin Stoddert in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
 
He attended college at Northern Illinois University, where he graduated in 1985, summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice.
 
In 1987, he joined ATF as a criminal investigator in the Chicago Field Division. From 1993 to 1998, Traver served as a group supervisor in the Philadelphia Field Division.
 
It was then off to Washington, DC, where he was a criminal investigator in the Office of Inspection in ATF headquarters until 2000.
 
He relocated again, to the New Orleans Field Division office, serving as the assistant special agent in charge and coordinating criminal enforcement efforts throughout the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
 
From 2001 to 2004, he was based out of ATF’s San Francisco office. As an assistant special agent in charge, he supervised criminal enforcement offices in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
 
Traver returned to the Chicago field office in 2004, becoming special agent in charge. For the next six years, he oversaw investigations of the illicit use and trafficking of firearms and explosives and the commission of arson, and directed all ATF law enforcement programs within the state of Illinois.  He is best known in Chicago for his efforts against gang violence.
 
In 2008, at the age of 44, Traver was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
 
Outside of his ATF work, Traver has served as a board member of the Illinois Drug Enforcement Officers Association. He is also the Chicago Veterans Outreach Coordinator for The Mission Continues, which helps veterans return to civilian life.
 
His nomination to lead ATF was met with criticism from gun-rights organizations, such as the National Rifle Association and others. Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado, told the Christian Science Monitor that Obama “picked a strong anti-Second Amendment person for an administrative job that has far more influence over the practical exercise of Second Amendment rights than any other job in the country.”
 
Traver and his wife, Becky, have three sons.
 
Andrew Traver: Is Obama's Choice for ATF Chief an 'Antigun Zealot'? (by Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor)
Advocate Spotlight: Andrew Traver (Zero: The Project to End Prostate Cancer)
Chicago Agent Picked for Guns Post (by Matt Negrin, Politico)
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is a federal law enforcement and regulatory agency with a substantial history in the federal government dating back to the tax-collecting bureaucracy of the 1800s.
 
Historically, the agency has struggled to maintain a balance between its law enforcement duties and its mandate to collect taxes. When the Homeland Security Bill transferred the ATF and its law enforcement functions from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, its former tax and trade responsibilities remained in the Treasury under the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
 
Accordingly, the new ATF mission aims more at preventing violent crime involving firearms and engaging in other anti-criminal activities. The agency is responsible for investigating and preventing crimes involving the unlawful use, manufacture and possession of firearms and explosives, arson and bombings and illegal trafficking or manufacture of alcohol and tobacco products.
 
As the agency responsible for regulation of the gun industry, its efforts at gun safety reform and regulation are often the targets of vehement attacks from right-wing supporters of gun ownership and commerce rights.
more
History:
The oldest tax-collecting Treasury agency, the ATF traces its roots back nearly 200 years, to when Congress imposed a tax on imported spirits to help pay the Revolutionary War debt in 1789. At that time, administration of duties was within the Treasury Department. In 1862, Congress created an Office of Internal Revenue, also within the Treasury Department. The new commissioner was charged with collection of taxes on alcohol and tobacco. In 1863, Congress authorized enforcement measures within the Office to aid in collecting and offsetting criminal evasion, and soon after added legal counsel for prosecution—both features that continue under today’s ATF.
 
In 1886, the Bureau of Internal Revenue began its Revenue Laboratory with a single employee from the Department of Agriculture.
 
In the era of Prohibition, criminal investigations of internal revenue laws became more prominent and were organized under the Prohibition Unit in 1920. As part of an effort to bolster enforcement efforts, the Treasury Department elevated the Unit to bureau status in 1927. In 1930 Congress transferred penal provisions of the prohibition act from the Treasury to a new Bureau of Prohibition in the Justice Department—with the exception of tax-related and regulatory activities.
 
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Federal Alcohol Control Administration (FACA), which aimed to regulate the legitimate alcohol industry. In 1935, the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA, in the Treasury) replaced FACA as regulator of the alcohol industry.
 
After prohibition ended, its policies continued to shape the ATF. In 1934, the Department of Justice’s Prohibition enforcement duties were subsumed into the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) within the Bureau of Internal Revenue, in the Treasury. Meanwhile, FAA, also within the Treasury, oversaw regulation of the alcohol industry. The FAA was merged with the ATU in 1940.
 
In 1934 Congress passed the National Firearms Act and, four years later, the Federal Firearms Act, for which the Miscellaneous Tax Unit, Bureau of Internal Revenue, collected fees. In 1942 enforcement duties were delegated to ATU. In 1952, the Miscellaneous Tax Unit was dismantled, and its firearms and tobacco tax responsibilities were transferred to ATU. The Bureau of Internal Revenue became the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the IRS renamed the ATU the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division.
 
In 1968, the Gun Control Act gave the ATU’s laboratory responsibility for explosives, and the division title became Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Around 1970, overtures began toward AFT independence. In 1972, a Treasury Department Order transferred IRS power, functions and duties related to tobacco, firearms and explosives to ATF. In the 1970s, ATF demonstrated an ability to prove arson, and in 1982, Congress made clear that arson is a federal crime, and gave ATF responsibility for investigating commercial arson nationwide.
 
In 2003, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and its law enforcement functions were transferred under the Homeland Security bill to the Department of Justice. The tax and trade functions of ATF remain in the Treasury Department with the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The agency's name was changed to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
 

ATF Special Agents Killed In The Line Of Duty

more
What it Does:
The ATF regulates the tobacco, alcohol, firearms and explosives industries by enforcing federal laws relating to these areas. Specifically, it conducts investigations into criminal activities—including the illegal manufacture, sale and transfer of these items. It operates with the aid of specialized task forces and forensic laboratories.
Added to the Bureau in 1886, ATF Laboratories now employ a hundred professionals in four labs, in three cities. A new, $135-million National Laboratory Center in Maryland was established in 2003.
 
As the entity responsible for regulating firearm commerce, the ATF attempts to curb illegal use and sale of firearms by issuing licenses and conducting firearms licensee qualification and compliance inspections. ATF administers the Gun Control Act (GCA), mandates federal licensing standards for firearms manufacturers, importers and dealers.
 
Under authority of sections 924(c) and (e) of Title 18 of the United States Code, ATF targets, investigates and recommends prosecution of “armed career criminals,” “narcotics traffickers,” and “other dangerous armed criminals.” The agency also “strives to increase state and local awareness of available federal prosecution under these statutes,” and issues firearms licenses and conducts firearms licensee qualification and compliance inspections.
 
 
 
More firearms links:
 
The agency uses combined resources to investigate explosives incidents and arsons, including national and international response teams and arson task forces-- consisting of ATF special agents, auditors, technicians, laboratory personnel, and dogs. ATF also provides expertise internationally in post-blast examination and cause/origin determination, and plays a “lead role” in investigations of arson and bombing incidents directed at abortion clinics. The Bureau’s Explosives Program maintains a computerized repository for historical and technical data on national explosives called the Explosives System.
 
Arson and Explosives Programs
 
Tobacco/Alcohol
ATF regulation of the alcohol and tobacco industries includes quality control and consumer safety, taxation, criminal investigation and law enforcement, etc.
 
Gangs

2005 National Gang Threat Assessment

(PDF)

more
Where Does the Money Go:

From 2000-2008 the agency spent a total of $738,892,378 on contracts.

 
Top 10 ATF Contractors:
Electronic Data Systems Corporation
$144,104,293
Groupe Walsh (WAI), Inc.
$75,299,227
Three Saints Bay LLC
$32,582,445
Unisys Corporation
$24,565,494
Telesis Corporation
$23,562,104
Paradigm Holdings, Inc.
$19,880,738
Government of the United States
$19,457,411
Groupe CGI, Inc.
$13,719,135
Sierra Holdings Corp.
$13,031,240
Milvets Systems Technology, Inc.
$11,227,701
more
Controversies:
In a July 2008 Portfolio article exposing how U.S. guns are arming the current violent drug wars in Mexico, reporter James Verini draws attention to how the A.T.F. has been rendered increasingly ineffective in stopping the illicit flow of arms:
 
The A.T.F. is uniquely hamstrung among federal law-enforcement agencies in terms of the information it is permitted to gather and share. Stipulations reiterated in congressional appropriations bills every year forbid the A.T.F. to create a national database of guns or gun owners. The agency can’t monitor guns that manufacturers and importers sell to wholesalers and dealers.

Gun buyers are required to fill out A.T.F. sales forms, but the agency doesn’t collect them; dealers are required to keep the forms. They are also expected to send the A.T.F. multiple-purchase notices for handguns, but given the volume of sales, compliance is all but voluntary, and the rule, amazingly, does not apply to rifles. The National Tracing Center houses 440 million documents, but federal law forbids them from being indexed so they can be searched by name. Most of these records are still on microfiche. The result is not surprising: Nearly half of all traces are inconclusive.

At the same time, becoming a licensed gun dealer in the U.S. is very simple. All that’s required is a completed application, a photograph, and a set of fingerprints for a background investigation. A license entitles anyone to buy guns straight from manufacturers and send them between states or abroad. There are roughly 110,000 licensed gun dealers in the U.S. In Texas and Arizona, as in much of the nation, about half of them don’t have stores; these so-called kitchen-table dealers instead buy and sell guns through the mail or out of their homes or cars. Further, an A.T.F. report found that three-quarters of dealers who sell from commercial premises do so from “businesses such as funeral homes and auto-parts stores.”
 
See also: Mexican cartels look north for arms (Marketplace, American Public Media, June 26, 2008)
And the agency’s press releases/fact sheets on the subject: ATF Expands Efforts to Combat Illegal Flow of Firearms Into Mexico ; Fact Sheet: Project Gunrunner
 
Truscott and Domenech Whistleblower Controversy
Edgar A. Domenech, a 23-year veteran of the A.T.F., filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel in March 2008 alleging that the Justice Department had punished him for questioning the performance of former ATF director Carl J. Truscott. Domenech alleged that his complaints about Truscott, beginning in 2005, were ignored by officials because of Truscott’s ties to the White House (He was the former head of President Bush’s Secret Service Detail before taking over ATF). Truscott resigned in 2006 while under investigation for alleged financial mismanagement.
 
ATF Whistle-Blower Alleges Backlash (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
 
Waco
The 1993 “Waco Massacre” occurred when the ATF attempted to execute a search warrant on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. Local authorities had advised the ATF of large weapon stocks on the compound, which housed members of a religious cult. After four ATF officers and six Branch Davidians were killed in the initial stand-off, a 51-day siege ensued, ending in a fire and the deaths of 76 people. The AFT and federal government have been widely criticized for their handling of the situation.
Who tipped off the media about the Waco raid? (by Robert Bryce, Jim Moore, and Joe Ellis, Salon News)
 
Ruby Ridge
In 1992, ATF agents attempting to apprehend Randy Weaver, a man who failed to appear in court after being charged with selling illegally shortened shotguns to ATF agents, prepared for a tactical assault on the Weaver residence in Northern Idaho. In what came to be known as the Ruby Ridge incident, a confrontation between U.S. Marshals, FBI snipers and the Weavers ended with the deaths of Randy Weaver’s wife and son. Ruby Ridge was an escalation in an era of heightened tensions between the federal government and separatist groups—in this case, specifically white supremacists or sympathizers in the Northwestern U.S.—that also included the Waco incident and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Ruby Ridge Lawyer Offers Help in Montana (by Dirk Johnson, New York Times)
The F.B.I. and Ruby Ridge (editorial, New York Times)
Separatist Family Given $3.1 million from Government (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
A new Ruby Ridge documentary (by Virginia Heffernan, Slate)

more
Suggested Reforms:


 

more
Debate:
Gun Control
The battle over gun control is one of the defining debates in U.S. history. At the most basic level, the conflict is between the Second-Amendment right to own a gun and the government’s responsibility to regulate guns and maintain safety and order.
 
The issue tends to be partisan, with Republicans supporting strong Second-Amendment rights, and Democrats pushing for increased gun control to curb violent crime. However, the debate is also divided along regional/state lines.
 
The gun lobby in the U.S. is massive, with the National Rifle Association (NRA) spending an estimated $40 million during the 2008 election campaign alone. The NRA—labeled the “natural enemy” of the ATF by Gerry Spence, the attorney who defended Randy Weaver after the federal siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho—is among the largest and most powerful gun-rights groups in the country, and can exert considerable influence in U.S. politics. The Gun Control Act of 1968 radicalized politics and the NRA, which shifted from a more benevolent emphasis on sportsmanship to a dogged commitment to deregulate and impede NTA enforcement.
 
Pro-Gun
 
Pro-Regulation
 
Recent Supreme Court Ruling
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the right to keep guns at home for self-defense. It overturned a 32-year ban in the District of Columbia, allowing states to set rules for gun ownership but striking down prohibitions.
New England gun makers hail Supreme Court ruling (by Stephen Reitz, Associated Press)
Council Considering Gun Law Changes (by Nikita Stewart, Washington Post)
Gun ruling won't change much, ATF chief says (by Dane Schiller and Allan Turner, Houston Chronicle)
Obama supports supreme court reversal of gun ban (by Suzanne Goldenberg and Elena Schor, The Guardian)

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Former Directors:
Report Criticizes Ex-ATF Chief (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
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Comments

Henry White 1 week ago
P purchased a firearm for my son so he could go to work here in Fla as a G licensed security officer and now he is refusing to repay me for all of the expenses that he owes me for such as his schooling ,holster,and his G licenses,Can i reposses his pistol from him for i have the statement from the bank showing where i got the gun for him.
Deb Simmering 9 months ago
I recently went to a VFW with my sister to pick up her husband and noticed that they were still smoking in this establishment. I am not sure of the number of the VFW but I do know it is on St Rt. 42 in Lexington, Ohio. I had to leave because it was so smoky in there I couldn't breathe. Something should be done about this. If every other business has to make their patrons go outside to smoke this one should to. Thank you for your time.
nadine trombacco 3 years ago
across the street from grandchildren high school is a Hess Gas Station twice i've been in there and seen the cashier sell cigars and lottery tickets to under age student and i told them about and they just brush me off and said i didn't see what i thought i saw i would like to report this Hess Station its in Orlando, Fla on Turkey Lake Blvd and Production at Universal Park across the street from Dr Phillips High School thank you so much
Christopher Hernandez 5 years ago
My name is Christopher Hernandez, and I work as a active Peace Officer for the city of Pharr, Texas. I would like to know if there is any way that I can get any anti-gang posters so that I can give thatm out to schools around the city. Thank you for your help. Respectfully, Officer C. Hernandez

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Founded: July 1, 1972
Annual Budget: $1.11 billion
Employees: 5,0256
Official Website: http://www.atf.gov/
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Jones, B. Todd
Director

In the wake of revelations that an undercover ATF operation designed to track illegal guns purchased in the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels has lost track of more than 1,000 guns, Acting ATF Director Ken Melson was re-assigned to the Justice Department Office of Legal Policy. Attorney General Eric Holder asked B. Todd Jones to serve as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms  and Explosives (ATF), starting on August 31, 2011. Jones was sworn in as ATF director on August 29, 2013. This was not the first time that Jones has been called in to fill a position left open by the resignation of a controversial official.

 

While he was still acting director, Jones continued to serve simultaneously as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.

 

Born May 23, 1957, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones’s father was in the Air Force, and the family moved quite often. After graduating from Wyoming High School in Cincinnati in 1975, Jones earned his B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College in 1979 and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983. During his senior year of college, he worked as an intern in the office of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, and he has said that his internship inspired him to a career in public service, which he also says is “in his blood.”

 

Immediately following admission to the Minnesota bar, Jones went on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as an infantry officer with the 7th Marine Regiment and subsequently as both defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of courts martial proceedings.  In fact, it may be military service that runs in Jones’ family, because his great-great-grandfather served in the Ohio Colored Infantry during the Civil War. 

 

Upon leaving active duty in 1989, Jones worked as an associate attorney at Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly from 1989 to 1992.  In 1991, Jones was recalled as a Marine Corps Reservist for the first war in Iraq and served as the commanding officer of the fourth Marine Division Military Police Company until his honorable discharge in 1998. 

 

During those same years, Jones served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1992 to 1994.  He returned to private practice as a partner with Greene Espel from 1994 to 1997, and served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1997 to 1998.  In 1998, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones as the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, and President Bill Clinton nominated him. He served from 1998 to 2001, resigning upon the election of Republican George W. Bush. 

 

Back in private practice, Jones returned briefly to Greene Espel, but soon left that firm and became a partner at the much larger firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi from 2001 to 2009, where his practice focused on complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense. 

 

In 2009, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones for his old job as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. The previous Attorney, Rachel Paulose, had resigned in 2007 following allegations of mishandling of classified reports and a dictatorial management style. President Obama nominated Jones, and he has served in that role from 2009 to the present. Ironically, six years earlier, in 2003, Jones and Klobuchar clashed in a high profile criminal trial in Minneapolis, with Klobuchar’s office prosecuting former Minnesota Twins baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett for rape and Jones defending him. The trial ended in an acquittal on all charges. 

 

Shortly after beginning his second stint as Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney, Jones was asked by Attorney General Eric Holder to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) of U.S. Attorneys, which provides advice and counsel to the Attorney General on policy, management and operational issues affecting U.S. Attorneys Offices throughout the country, and also represents U.S. Attorneys in the decision-making process at the Department. 

 

Jones will be no stranger to the issues faced by ATF, for during his years as a federal prosecutor, he conducted grand jury investigations and was lead trial lawyer in many federal prosecutions involving drug trafficking, firearms, financial fraud and violent crime.  As U.S. Attorney, moreover, Jones has advocated a community-based approach in dealing with Arab-American communities, many of which feel stereotyped in the current Islamophobic environment. 

 

Jones has been married since 1980 to Margaret Samanant, whom he met in college, and the couple has three sons and two daughters.  According to the website OpenSecrets, Jones has contributed $12,947 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2002. 

-Matt Bewig

 

To Learn More:

Department of Justice Press Release Announcing the Jones Appointment

Federal Agent: How B. Todd Jones Became the Man to Put the U.S. Attorney’s House Back in Order (by Frank Bures, Minnesota Monthly)

New Acting Director of ATF B. Todd Jones Will Tackle “Lack of Stability” (by Steven John and Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio)

Washington Called, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones Answered (by Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press)

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Traver, Andrew
Nominee

Having labored under interim directors since 2006, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the Department of Justice may finally get a permanent director. Maybe.

 
President Barack Obama’s selection on November 17, 2010, of Andrew “Andy” Traver, a career ATF agent, to lead the agency was greeted with hostility from the gun-rights lobby. Gaining confirmation of the nomination in the Senate is expected to be a challenge. In fact, prior to 2005, the ATF director did not require Senate confirmation. Republicans blocked President George W. Bush’s nominee, Michael Sullivan, claiming he was not sufficiently sensitive to gun dealers. Since then, the bureau has been run by acting directors, who do not need to be confirmed.
 
Prior to beginning his ATF career, Traver graduated from the Naval Officer Candidate School and from the Surface Warfare Officer School in Coronado, California. Upon graduation, he served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Benjamin Stoddert in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
 
He attended college at Northern Illinois University, where he graduated in 1985, summa cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice.
 
In 1987, he joined ATF as a criminal investigator in the Chicago Field Division. From 1993 to 1998, Traver served as a group supervisor in the Philadelphia Field Division.
 
It was then off to Washington, DC, where he was a criminal investigator in the Office of Inspection in ATF headquarters until 2000.
 
He relocated again, to the New Orleans Field Division office, serving as the assistant special agent in charge and coordinating criminal enforcement efforts throughout the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
 
From 2001 to 2004, he was based out of ATF’s San Francisco office. As an assistant special agent in charge, he supervised criminal enforcement offices in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.
 
Traver returned to the Chicago field office in 2004, becoming special agent in charge. For the next six years, he oversaw investigations of the illicit use and trafficking of firearms and explosives and the commission of arson, and directed all ATF law enforcement programs within the state of Illinois.  He is best known in Chicago for his efforts against gang violence.
 
In 2008, at the age of 44, Traver was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
 
Outside of his ATF work, Traver has served as a board member of the Illinois Drug Enforcement Officers Association. He is also the Chicago Veterans Outreach Coordinator for The Mission Continues, which helps veterans return to civilian life.
 
His nomination to lead ATF was met with criticism from gun-rights organizations, such as the National Rifle Association and others. Dave Kopel, research director at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado, told the Christian Science Monitor that Obama “picked a strong anti-Second Amendment person for an administrative job that has far more influence over the practical exercise of Second Amendment rights than any other job in the country.”
 
Traver and his wife, Becky, have three sons.
 
Andrew Traver: Is Obama's Choice for ATF Chief an 'Antigun Zealot'? (by Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor)
Advocate Spotlight: Andrew Traver (Zero: The Project to End Prostate Cancer)
Chicago Agent Picked for Guns Post (by Matt Negrin, Politico)
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