Well what do you know, the first installation of our Better Know A Bureau series is shaping up to be a doozy as our deep dive into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has proven to be so deep that we needed to utilize a Part Two to contain it all. Shall we dispense with longwinded intros and dive right into the story? We shall!
When we left off, the BATF was nothing more than a small department called the ‘Revenue Laboratory’ within the Treasury Department’s larger Bureau of Internal Revenue. Next, during the time of prohibition, came the Bureau of Prohibition which was tasked with enforcing prohibition. Agents who worked for the Department of the Treasury to combat illegal distilling and bootlegging were called ‘revenuers’ or ‘revenoors.’
In 1927, the Bureau of Prohibition became its own independent agency within the Treasure Department before being transferred to the Justice Department in 1930. When prohibition was repealed in December in 1933, all members of the Bureau of Prohibition were transferred BACK to the Department of the Treasury where they became part of the Alcohol Tax Unit(ATU).
Boy this has been a wild ride. In 1942, in part because of the excellent work of The Untouchables during prohibition, the ATU was granted responsibility for enforcing federal firearms laws and regulations. What do you know, it’s 1942 and we already have alcohol and firearms under the umbrella of the ATU. Things are starting to shape up!
The next major change came in the early 50s when the Bureau of Internal Revenue was renamed the Internal Revenue Service and the ATU was tasked with the responsibility of enforcing federal tobacco tax laws.
Next up, in 1968 the Gun Control Act was passed and our little ATU changed its name to the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division and began to be referred to under the initials ATF. On July 1, 1927, Treasury Department Order 221 was passed and the responsibilities of the ATF were official transferred to newly formed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Boom! We got ourselves a bureau.
Okay, so, it is 2017 now. What exactly does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives do these days? For that information, let’s turn to the bureau’s mission statement:
“ATF protects the public from crimes involving firearms, explosives, arson, and the diversion of alcohol and tobacco products; regulates lawful commerce in firearms and explosives; and provides worldwide support to law enforcement, public safety, and industry partners.”
Given that be bureau functions under the greater Department of Justice, it is also tasked with the broader mission of upholding the constitution and the laws on the United States in the pursuit of justice.
The current acting director of ATF is one Thomas E. Brandon. Brandon has extensive experience in the law enforcement and has been a member of the senior leadership team since 2011.