Welcome to the newly formed (and sure to be popular) series featured here on the Van Norman Law Blog titled: Better Know a Bureau, in which we are going to be diving into America’s bureaus. No, not these bureaus. Frankly, it would be difficult to fit a full-sized human into any of those, and even if you could, it would likely not be a very educational experience. No, we are going to be diving into the bureaus of government, an exercise which is sure to be more mentally enriching, and much less physically confining than its less practical counterpart. Today, we begin with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF). Truly, we are starting things off with a bang.

This history of the BATF is, as with many governmental agencies, a rather discursive one. As needs are discovered, individuals step forward to fill those needs. As said needs grown and the tasks associated with addressing them become more overwhelming, additional help is need. More people are hired on! What was one person taking on extra responsibility in a large department suddenly becomes a team. And around that team, gradually grows a native infrastructure until – voila – you have your own little bureau (or department/office/ministry) ready to go.

The growth of the BATF tracks closely with the evolutionary paradigm we have just outlined. The BATF began life in 1886 as a sort of… internal growth of the United States Department of the Treasure. At the time, this growth (gross) was called the ‘Revenue Laboratory.’ The dubiously named Revenue Laboratory was part of the larger Bureau of Internal Revenue (which would one day be renamed the Internal Revenue Service).

Now, you are probably listening to the start of this story and thinking, “we sound like we are one heck of a long ways off from learning about the modern BATF.” Well, if you were thinking that, you’d be right. That is why we are going to have to take this little tale to a part two! Check back soon to get the rest of the story.