The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, otherwise known as the ATF, operates under the auspices of the United States Department of Justice. ATF agents within both divisions in Texas (Dallas and Houston) have been busier than ever in the past few years, as increasing numbers of Texans are purchasing firearms at gun shows and from gun dealers. One of the many responsibilities of ATF agents in Texas is to track persons who purchase firearms, especially in large quantities, and ensure that they are not reselling these to convicted criminals.
ATF agents in Texas often work hand-in-hand with state and local law enforcement agencies. Some of these include the Houston I.S. D. Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the Arlington Police Department, and the Collin County Sheriff’s Office.
Meeting the Requirements to Become an ATF Agent in Texas
There are strict requirements for ATF jobs in Texas that candidates must meet, including education, experience, physical requirements and basic requirements.
Basic Requirements – Basic requirements include possessing U.S. citizenship, being between the ages of 21 and 36 ½, being legally able to carry a firearm/ammunition, being able to relocate and being registered with selective service if applicable.
Physical and Other Requirements – Physically, one must be able to complete the ATF Physical Task Test, involving a 1.5- mile run, sit- ups and push-ups; pass a drug test and physical examination; pass a background investigation; as well as pass written tests and oral interviews.
Education and Experience Requirements – An applicant’s education and experience will determine the grade level they qualify to apply for. The entry level for Texas ATF Agents is Grade 5, which involves completion of one of the following:
- Hold a bachelor degree in any field, OR
- Have three years of experience in criminal justice/law enforcement
- A combination of education and experience may be accepted
Higher grade ATF jobs (Grade 7 and Grade 9) require possession of a graduate degree, such as:
- Master degree in psychology
- Master degree in sociology
- Master degree in criminal justice
- Master degree in political science
- J.D. or L.L.B. degree
Training for Texas ATF Jobs
After hire, ATF agents in Texas undergo a two-part training program to prepare them for the challenges inherent within this career. Part one of this training program occurs in Glynco, Georgia at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and is called the Criminal Investigators Training Program, or CITP. It lasts for 12 weeks and teaches students how to conduct criminal investigations. If a new Texas ATF agent has already completed CITP training for another federal agency, this portion of the training may be waived.
Part two of the Texas ATF agent’s training is held at the ATF National Academy, also in Glynco, Georgia, and is entitled Special Agent Basic Training (SABT). It lasts for 15 weeks and teaches students many specialized practices and procedures involved in being an ATF agent, including firearms training, field operations, arson and explosives training, tactical training, physical training, undercover operations, and much more.
Additionally, students must complete academic coursework during SABT and must pass seven exams with a score of at least 80 percent in these disciplines:
- Legal issues
- Field operations and undercover regulations
- Explosives and explosive regulations
- Arson and arson regulations
- Firearms trafficking and firearms regulations
- Report writing, interviewing, property, and alcohol and tobacco diversion
- Firearms technology
ATF Operations Groups and Field Offices in Texas
Two divisions of the ATF are located within Texas. The Houston division of the ATF is the largest in the entire agency, and is located in the southeast portion of the state. The Dallas division is located in northwest Texas. Field offices of the ATF exist within each division as well.
- Dallas Field Division- Industry Operations:
- Dallas Group V: (469) 227-4415
- Dallas Group VI: (469) 227-4430
- El Paso Satellite Office: (915) 534-6475
- Lubbock Area Office: (806) 783-2750
- Fort Worth: (817)862-2850
- Dallas Groups – Criminal Enforcement:
- Group I (Intelligence): (469) 227-4350
- Group II (Arson and Explosives): (469) 227-4370
- Group III (Firearms Tracking): (469) 227-4395
- Dallas Special Response Team 3: (214) 221-2717
- Dallas Tactical Operations Office: (214) 221-3300
- El Paso Field Office: (915) 534-6449
- Lubbock Field Office: (806) 783-2700
- Ft. Worth/Dallas Satellite Office (Explosives Technology Branch): (817) 862-2800
- Ft. Worth Field Office: (817) 862-2800
- Tyler Field Office: (903) 590-1475
- Houston Field Division- Industry Operations:
- Group VI: (281) 716-8330
- Group VII: (281) 716-8360
- San Antonio II Field Office: (210) 805-2777
- McAllen Field Office: (956) 661-7950
- Houston Groups- Criminal Enforcement:
- Group I (VCIT/PSN): (281) 716-9900
- Group II: (281) 716-8780
- Group IV: (281) 716-8230
- Group V: (281) 716-9000
- Group VII: (281) 716-8370
- Group IX (Trafficking): (281) 716-9930
- Houston Group III (Arson & Explosives): (281) 716-8260
- Beaumont Field Office: (409) 981-6670
- Austin Field Office: (512) 231-2880
- Corpus Christi Field Office: (361) 887-2400
- Brownsville Field Office: (281) 716-9030
- McAllen Field Office: (956) 661-7930
- Laredo Field Office: (956) 764-7940
- San Antonio I & III Field Offices: (210) 805-2777
Texas ATF Operations in the News
Perhaps the most famous ATF case in Texas, even in the United States, occurred in February 1993, when Texas ATF Agents raided the Branch Davidian religious sect’s compound in Waco. As the Branch Davidians learned about the upcoming raid, they were prepared for it and killed four ATF agents in the ensuing gun battle. The operation was then taken over by the FBI, who endured a standoff with the Branch Davidians for 51 days. 76 Branch Davidians were found dead inside the compound at the end of the standoff.
More recently, ATF agents in Texas have been kept busy with the increase of firearms purchases in the state, particularly in the Houston area, which houses 1600 licensed gun dealers. As Texas has more firearms than any other state, ATF agents are busily trying to keep up with their inspections of firearms dealers throughout the state. In 2013, a record 1.1 million Texans requested the government’s permission to purchase firearms.