BUREAU of ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, and FIREARMS
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is one of the most important Federal Agencies we have. It is dedicated to reducing violent crime, collecting revenue and protecting the public. The ATF, for short, has many different programs for alcohol, firearms, arson and explosives, and tobacco. The ATF has a long background starting in 1789. It serves a huge function to keeping illegal alcohol and guns off the streets. The ATF is in the news a lot for different reasons. It is a large agency with tremendous power.
The ATF roots have been around for hundreds of years. It all started in 1789, when the first congress imposed a tax on alcohol to pay for a war debt. Congressional lawmakers were impressed with the job that Alexander Hamilton had done with the administrative duties on this tax. By 1862, Congress created an Office of Internal Revenue within the Treasury Department. It was responsible for charging the commissioner with collection, among others, of taxes on distilled spirits and tobacco products that continue today. In 1963 they started hiring agents to investigate and punish people who tried to get away with tax evasion. The Bureau of Internal Revenue did many things related with alcohol and tobacco; it became a burden. So when Prohibition came around they created the Treasury’s Bureau of Prohibition. When Prohibition ended they created the Federal Alcohol Control Administration, the FACA. This was short lived so the came up with the FAA, Federal Alcohol Administration. In 1934 the Alcohol Tax Unit, ATU, was created. At the same time, the FAA, functioning independently within Treasury, collecting data, to establish license and permit requirements, and define the regulations that ensure a fair marketplace for the alcohol industry and the consumer. In 1940 the FAA as and merged with the ATU. In 1952 the Bureau of Internal Revenue was dismantled. All of its alcohol or tobacco related issues went to the ATU. The Bureau was renamed the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS. The IRS renamed the ATU the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division. When the Gun Control Act was passed in 1968 it gave them the responsibility of firearms. Because of this it was renamed to the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Division. This is the ATF we know today.
The ATF does a lot. Simply said. The government funds it and they get money taxes collected from alcohol, tobacco, and firearms retailers. It is broken down into four major parts. There are the Alcohol Programs, Tobacco Programs, Firearms Programs, and Arson & Explosives Programs. The Alcohol Division is responsible for approving certificates of label approval (COLAs) for alcoholic beverages. They way it works is that it gets money for every barrel or can of alcohol. They regulate the alcohol industry. They issue alcohol permits and work to keep criminals out of the business. The Tobacco Division works about the same. It uses money given to them by taxes and permits. The job of the Tobacco Division is to ensure the collection of tobacco taxes and to qualify applicants for permits to manufacture or import tobacco products or to operate tobacco export warehouses. The Firearms division investigates armed violent offenders and career criminals, narcotics traffickers, narco-terrorists, violent gangs, and domestic and international arms traffickers, along with tax collection, and permit issuing. The Arson & Explosives Division has responsibilities dedicated to protecting the public, reducing violent crime, and collecting revenue. It enforces the Federal laws and regulations to explosives and arson. All of these four divisions are broken down and there are head offices around the nation. There are currently 14 regions but soon to be 23. These offices control a large area, up to five states, and regulate everything each division does.
The man in charge is the Director of the ATF. His name is Bradley A. Buckles. He oversees the work of all of the people under him. He is responsible for many speeches to the press and the public. He was sworn in on December 20, 1999. He is a man with much passion for the ATF and wants to accomplish a lot. The largest things they have been in the news about lately is their findings on crime gun traces, and just 5 months ago they got the verdict on the Waco incident. The ATF was found to have not used excessive force either by firing at Mount Carmel without provocation or by using indiscriminate gunfire at Mount Carmel. This is a big win because the ATF could have been in very deep trouble if they were found guilty. The crime gun report gives a good example of what they do. They found that 43 percent of crime guns were used by people under 25, and 34 percent of that were youth, as young as 18. They do these types of reports for all types of guns, alcohol, and tobacco.
I believe that this is one of the most important agencies there is. It has only been around for 32 years but they have worked on it for over 200. They have it set-up as good as it can be. I don’t think they should do any type of reform because they are doing a great job already. There are things out there that I don’t even know about and one of the reasons is the ATF. Keeping illegal alcohol, tobacco and firearms off the streets is a huge responsibility and we need someone to do it.
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