ATF Information – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives



The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operates within the U.S. Department of Justice and is responsible for seeking out and stopping the trafficking and illegal use of firearms, arson, bombings, illegal diversion of tobacco and alcohol products, acts of terrorism, and the illegal storage and use of explosives. To do this work, the ATF partners with communities and law enforcement agencies around the country to share information, conduct criminal investigations, and regulate the explosives and firearms industries.

Careers available at the ATF typically fall into one of three categories: special agent, industry operations investigator, or attorney.

Special agents may work at ATF headquarters in Washington, D.C., at any one of the many field offices located across the United States and its territories, or overseas. Special agents have responsibility for investigating potential crimes related to arson, explosives, firearms, and alcohol and tobacco diversion. To do this, special agents are expected to conduct regular surveillance, execute search warrants, interview suspects and witnesses, search for and analyze evidence, prepare case reports, and testify in court on behalf of the federal government. Special agents are expected to be physically fit, be able to handle extensive travel, and work outside of regular business hours. Application requirements include: U.S. citizenship, passing a special agent exam and physical test, and a successful interview. Those interested in applying must be at least 21 years old but not older than 36.

Industry operations investigators typically conduct inspections and investigations of the things regulated by the ATF: importers and exporters of firearms and explosives, users or dealers of firearms and explosives, manufacturers of firearms and explosives, etc. Investigators also make determinations about permitting or licensing those seeking to open a business in one of the regulated fields. Those interested in applying to become an industry operations investigator must be U.S. citizens physically capable of handling the position, able to travel for many overnight trips each month, and pass a drug test and background investigation.

Attorneys with ATF provide legal services and advice to headquarters and field offices. Those at headquarters in Washington, D.C., work in one of four groups: disclosure, administration and ethics, firearms, explosives and arson, or forfeiture and criminal law. Those in field offices work directly with investigators and special agents.



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