How to Become an ATF Agent in Missouri

Special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) work to fight violent crime in Missouri.  In particular, these agents specialize in crimes that involve firearms, along with those involving arson and explosives.

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Agents in Missouri work out of a number of different locations throughout the state, including an ATF Field Division office located in Kansas City.  In addition, there are offices in the following cities throughout Missouri:

  • Cape Girardeau
  • Jefferson City
  • St. Louis
  • Springfield


Requirements to Become an ATF Special Agent in Missouri

The ATF has a number of requirements that apply to residents of Missouri who want to become special agents for the agency.

Basic Requirements – The first step in becoming an ATF special agent is to make sure that all of the basic requirements for becoming a federal law enforcement officer are met.  They include the following:

  • Having registered with the Selective Service (if appropriate)
  • Being a US citizen
  • Being at least 21 years old and younger than 37
    • Veterans and federal law enforcement officers might be exempt from this.

Requirements for Different Grades – Applicants can apply to become an ATF special agent at a number of different federal levels.  The requirements become progressively more stringent at higher Government Liaison (GL) levels.  The ATF has specific educational requirements, although those with specialized experience such as a background in law enforcement can use their experience to substitute for part of the educational requirements.

The following academic backgrounds apply to the different GLs as listed below:

    • Bachelor’s degree (any field):   GL-5


  • Bachelor’s degree with distinction:  GL-7
    • Criminal justice
    • Sociology
    • Political science
    • Psychology
    • A related field


    • Graduate school in one of the fields listed above
      • One year of study:  GL-7
      • A graduate degree:  GL-9


  • A J.D. or LL.B. degree:  GL-9


Special Agent Training for the ATF

Applicants who pass the ATF’s specialized tests and thorough background check then go through two phases of training.  First, the recruits train with those from other law enforcement agencies at the FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) in Georgia.  They go through the Criminal Investigator Training Program.

Once they have passed their course, the ATF trains them in the agency’s techniques.  This takes place at the ATF’s Academy.  Special agents go through a Basic Training Course to learn the basics of investigating firearms cases, explosives, and arson.  New agents must be prepared to accept assignment anywhere in the U.S.

ATF Cases from Missouri

Special agents of the ATF frequently apply their expertise to cases that are investigated jointly with other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.  They have been involved in some prominent cases in Missouri as described below:

Arson of a Planned Parenthood Facility – A Joplin man tried to burn down a local Planned Parenthood facility twice in October2013 by throwing an accelerant onto the roof of the building and setting fire to the device.  He was rapidly identified and charged with the crime within a week.

Conspiracy to Ship Illegal Firearms to Illinois – ATF agents identified a felon in suburban Chicago who possessed firearms illegally.  Upon further investigation, they identified that his sister in O’Fallon had made straw purchases of five firearms and shipped them to the man.  He subsequently tried to sell three of them to an undercover ATF agent that he thought was a convicted felon.

Both people have been charged with several charges, including conspiracy.  If convicted, the woman faces a potential fine of $250,000 for each of five counts of illegally possessing or transferring firearms, along with a large amount of time in prison.

ATF Task Force in Northwest Missouri

The ATF started sponsoring NITRO (the Northwest Missouri Interagency Team Response Operation) in 2002, because armed drug trafficking organizations plagued these rural counties.  A number of police and sheriff’s departments have partnered with this operation, along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Agents involved with NITRO have made a significant dent in violent criminal operations in this part of Missouri.  Their results as of early 2010 are shown below:

  • Federal indictments of 83 defendants
  • The following seizures:
    • About $300,000 in cash and assets
    • About 40 pounds of methamphetamine and other drugs
    • A number of firearms

In 2010, the task force distributed about $90,000 of the proceeds to the participating agencies to help fund continuing law enforcement efforts.

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