Perspective From an ATF Agent

By Anonymous Dave

When I was a kid, being a Special Agent with the ATF was the only job I wanted. My dad’s best friend was an agent for years and was one of the best people I knew. I interned for the ATF when I was in college and got to see what the job was truly like, not the bad news bears version that most people think of. 

I was able to work around people who did the job right and did it exceptionally well. They went after violent crime and gangs; nothing else mattered. Now, I’ve been on the job for almost 10 years. During my time, I’ve worked in a large and highly violent metropolitan area, and have been a part of multiple state, local, and federal task forces. I’ve worked everything from spree killers and large-scale narcotics trafficking, to simple felon-in-possession cases. I’ve responded to mass shooting events and thrown tourniquets on victims with gunshot wounds. I’ve seen all the different levels of  this job.

Contrary to popular belief, street level agents couldn’t care less about the length of your rifle barrel, how many guns you own, or if you lost your guns in a “boating accident.” Not to mention the fact we only number roughly 2,000 agents, so even if the government told us to, we couldn’t collect citizens’ firearms. 

The truth is, 99.9% of street agents got on this job because we want to work violent crime, and a lot of it occurs by use of firearms. We investigate dope, we investigate gangs, and we do our best to help our state and local partners. For the most part, we do a damn good job. Despite another three-letter agency claiming they are the go-to for gangs and violent crime, we are the violent crime police. Any US Attorney’s Office in any major city in America would agree.  

Now, however, we’re at a crossroads. We have an administration and an agency leadership that is more preoccupied with political agenda than with protecting citizens. They are now focused on pistol braces and PMFs rather than prosecuting violent offenders. As investigators, we are even more discouraged than the American public with this shift in priorities. We no longer have prosecutors in our US Attorney’s Offices or State Prosecutor’s offices motivated to properly go after demonstrably dangerous individuals by accepting the cases we’re presenting. 

My stories could fill a book, both the good and the bad, and for that reason, it is a sad day for me. The only thing I wanted to do was protect the public from real crime; to do the job and do it well. Despite what social media influencers would have you believe, that’s the only thing street level ATF agents really care about. There are many more conversations to be had, preferably over a glass of Weller (or Chicken Cock) around a fire with a good cigar, but I feel like you all needed to know that we’re not happy with these types of decisions, and most of us are looking for the door out.