The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (abbreviated ATF) is a specialized federal law enforcement and regulatory organization within the U.S. Department of Justice. Its responsibilities include the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives, acts of arson and bombings, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. The ATF also regulates via licensing the sale, possession, and transportation of firearms, ammunition, and explosives in interstate commerce.
ATF retains (1) data on distilleries, wineries, breweries, manufacturers of tobacco products, wholesale and retail dealers of alcoholic beverages, and certain other manufacturers, dealers, and users of alcohol; (2) investigative reports on alleged violations under its jurisdiction; (3) data on federally licensed firearms manufacturers, importers, and dealers; and (4) data on federally licensed explosive manufacturers, importers, and dealers.
ATF can trace firearms that have a serial number and that were manufactured or imported — from the manufacturer or importer — to the retailer after 1968. It can trace explosives materials from the manufacturer to the distributor and/or user. ATF also maintains records on federal firearms and explosive license holders, including manufacturers, importers, and dealers.