Special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) work from offices in Las Vegas and Reno to help deter violent federal crimes in Nevada. The agents investigate an array of cases, including identifying weapons traffickers and drug dealers that are active in the state. They are also called upon to provide their specialized expertise to cases that involve arson or the use of explosives.
In one such case, a former Navy SEAL was sentenced to over 17 years in federal prison for firearms trafficking. He was involved in a conspiracy with residents of Las Vegas to sell high-powered weapons obtained from the federal government. This included more than 30 fully automatic weapons. One of the buyers was an undercover agent who expressed interest in smuggling the guns into Mexico.
ATF agents in Nevada are also involved with Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) — a Justice Department initiative to reduce gang and gun crime in the country. Agents from a variety of law enforcement agencies throughout Nevada meet regularly to discuss arrests that involve guns and explosives.
Requirements for ATF Special Agent Jobs
The ATF requires a high level of education or a specialized background in criminal investigations for those seeking jobs as special agents. In addition, applicants must meet the basic requirements for becoming federal law enforcement officers. This includes being a U.S. citizen and being between 21 and 36 years old. Older individuals may be able to apply if they are veterans or have worked as federal LEOs.
The educational requirements to become an ATF agent vary depending on the grade level of the ATF job. Experience in law enforcement can substitute for part of these requirements.
GL-5 Educational Requirements – Residents of Nevada who have a bachelor’s degree can apply for ATF jobs at this level. A degree in any field will qualify them for this type of position.
GL-7 Educational Requirements – Applicants for this level must have specialized in a field that is related to their ATF work. They must either have a year of graduate school or evidence of superior academic achievement in one of the following fields:
- Criminal justice
- Political science
GL-9 Educational Requirements – Graduate work is required to be able to apply for ATF jobs at the GL-9 level. Applicants must have a graduate degree in one of the fields shown above, or else have a J.D. or LL.B. degree.
Training Schools for ATF Recruits
Those who have passed the ATF’s application process, including their rigorous background check, are sent to two different schools for training in how to become an ATF agent.
Criminal Investigative Training – The first phase of training takes place at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center that has a Criminal Investigator Training Program. Recruits learn the basics of performing criminal investigations such as:
- Using firearms
- Conducting surveillance
- Managing crime scenes
Training in ATF Techniques – After passing the first course, recruits learn the basics of becoming an ATF special agent. The ATF Academy provides Special Agent Basic Training. While physical and tactical training are integral parts of this course, recruits also learn the following skills for their ATF careers:
- Investigating fire and explosives cases
- Identifying and tracking firearms
- Tracking illegal alcohol and tobacco sales
Nevada’s ATF Special Agents at Work
The trafficking of illegal firearms, including fully automatic weapons, has been a persistent problem in Nevada. ATF agents consider the people who provide arms to criminals to be equally responsible for crimes committed with these weapons. Some of the cases to be broken in Nevada are shown below:
Trafficking Nevada Guns in California – A Sacramento man who was prohibited from buying guns in California used a Nevada ID to purchase guns in Reno and then sell them in California. He supplied a number of weapons to a gang member in Elk Grove and was arrested in 2013.
Carrying a Loaded Gun into a Casino – An eight time felon was sentenced to 15 years in prison for brining a loaded gun into a Reno Casino. Given his history, the case fell under the purview of the Northern Nevada PSN Task Force.
Robbery of Five Convenience Stores – A felon on parole robbed convenience stores in Reno, Sparks, and Carson City at gunpoint. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison following an ATF bust in 2012.