Understanding the ATF: Behind the scenes of what the bureau does


When you think about the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, you probably think about big gun arrests or investigating explosives.

“We're looking at our specific areas, the Gun Control Act, the National Firearms Act and the Safe Explosives act are basically the three laws that we have to enforce,” said Suzanne Dabkowski, Public Information Officer for the ATF.

What they don't do: investigate alcohol and tobacco.

“I think there's a lot of misunderstanding out there. On a regular basis, at least weekly, because tobacco is in our name, we get a call about someone selling lucy's on the corner. Or someone is underage drinking,” Dabkowski said.

With just over 5,000 employees nationwide, the agency is responsible for tracking down gun traffickers, solving complicated arsons, and investigating explosives.

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To try to explain exactly what it is, and isn't the ATF does, they hold citizen's academy classes. The agency invited block watch captains, religious leaders, and others to a seven-week program to learn all about the bureau.

“So that they can take that information back and hopefully help apply it in their everyday lives and at least know, that's why they do what they do,” Dabkowski said.

Students got a chance to watch, learn and shoot.

“I decided to take this class so I can let people know in the community, there are a bunch of rumors and myths around when there's a police-officer involved shooting, around the ATF, around police period,” said Terrence City Newwss Sigers, Radio One Assistant Director of on-air talent.

“One thing I really liked was the aha moments of the other individuals. I think the class educated them. They differentiated between the Hollywood ATF and the real ATF,” said Scott Simmons, a block watch captain.

The ATF is holding a citizen’s academy in Columbus to teach the community more about the agency. See more coverage below: