Daniel O’Kelly – ATF Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow


Part 2 of 2.     Click here if you missed Part 1.

 Daniel O’Kelly spent 23 years as an Agent and Supervisor in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Proof of his rich expertise is he was selected as one of the writers of the new and improved ATF Curriculum still in use today.


AWC Inc.: How do the employees of the ATF view firearms, and the people who carry or own guns?

Dan O’Kelly: “Great question. The truth is you might be surprised. There is a good percentage of ATF people who are pro-gun rights. I know many who are gun collectors, and even some who are NRA members. A large percentage of Agents are former cops, and to my experience they are generally in favor of private gun ownership.”

On the other hand, there are those who are anti-gun, and who equate gun ownership with crime. Since ATF is the federal “gun police” agency, it gets a lot of pressure from Capitol Hill and the White House to make rulings and regulations which restrict firearms. For many of those near the top, they have no choice but to support that agenda or sabotage their career. And in many cases, that agenda flows downhill.

It was always easy to tell who was anti-gun. Those in ATF who are gun-knowledgeable and pro-gun are commonly referred to by their anti-gun co-workers as a ‘Gunstroke.’ That term was used with varying degrees of malice to indicate you’re one of those weirdos who ‘likes to stroke guns’. That of course was all forgotten about when one of the anti-gunners needed you to identify something for them about which they had no clue.


Photo: BATFE Headquarters. Washington, D.C.

AWC Inc.: How do you think the public should view the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives?

Dan O’Kelly: “People obviously have the right to think what they want. But let me supply some ammo here for taking an informed position. Some gun owners and dealers have a steamy hatred for the ATF. If you ask them why, it’s because of something they read or heard which supposedly happened to someone else. And, just like there are pro-gun citizens who don’t believe there should be any limits on guns, there are those in ATF who don’t believe in any gun rights. No one can deny there have been occasional abuses, but that is not something limited to just that agency. As a staunch gun rights advocate, I personally know hundreds of great people among ATF’s ranks.

A great many firearms dealers will tell you they haven’t been inspected by ATF in years, if ever, and if so, they’ve had no issues during their encounters. After I retired from ATF, I spent two years working for the corporate office of the largest firearm retailer in the world. That company, which sells a half-million firearms a year, has a great relationship with ATF.

If you read these accounts objectively, many of the people who hate ATF are angry about something the law will not allow them to manufacture or own. The law which prevents what they want wasn’t written by ATF. Just like the cop didn’t install the traffic light you just ran, although he’s writing you the ticket.

I’ll agree that ATF has contradicted themselves on several issues, and has made some rulings which do not stand up to logic, and we at the IFSA have gone on the record in Federal Court to point out some of those contradictions in an effort to get ATF to correct them. However, ATF has also ruled on several things which many gun owners seem surprisingly pleased about, such as exploding targets, “80% receiver blanks” possessed with completion jigs, the so-called “solvent traps”, etc…

When you see inside the gun industry, and talk with the people from the companies who manufacture firearms, and others like AWC which make upper receivers, lower receivers, and other related products, most of them would tell us they have no real problem with the ATF. They understand it is just a matter of people doing their jobs. They acknowledge there has to be someone enforcing the gun laws.

You need to understand…

It is the leadership at ATF Headquarters who constantly gets contacted by Capitol Hill and the White House. It is those in power in Washington D.C. who are not gun-friendly. President Clinton and even more so, President Obama have proven themselves to be anything but gun-friendly. There is always some new anti-gun initiative coming along.

The ATF is not in a position to argue with the President or Congress. They must do what they are told. Unfortunately, the ATF are the ones who get hated most for it when it’s not even them who is thinking up these anti-gun legislations.

I’ve said it many times before, the ATF people are so busy in their jobs, they don’t possibly have time to dream up new anti-gun laws.”


Photo: Surveillance video of Dylann Roof entering church. Released by Charleston, SC Police.


AWC Inc.: Final question, after the recent Dylann Roof church shootings in Charleston, we knew President Obama would seize the moment for advancing his anti-gun legacy. But now, other politicians who seemed to have been equipped with silencers, are acting like it’s safe to come out again and talk up the need for more gun control. What do you see happening here as it pertains to the ATF?

Daniel O’Kelly: “I’d ask them what it is that they want to prevent, which is not already illegal?

Like always, the President will use the ATF as a political tool for his anti-gun agenda. This kid’s act of shooting up a church is deplorable in itself, but like every mass shooting, it serves to further hinder the rights of the law abiding. Anti-gunners use tragedy as a new angle to do what they have wanted to do all along.

I expect them to try another gun grab as before. And of course they will tell the ATF what to do.

Anti-gunners betray their own foolishness by trying to legislate compliance. Have you seen the businesses with a “No Guns Allowed” sign on the door? Hilarious. Now the people who comply with rules will be unarmed. The fool inside who placed the sign is now even more vulnerable. The person who complies with rules is not the problem.

Let me close wrap up with a personal favorite…

In joining the ATF, during my panel interview with 3 senior officials, one of questions they asked me was, ‘What do you think of gun control?’ I said, ‘Sir, if you can prove to me you’ve gotten all of the other guns, then I will give you mine. But, that ship sailed 200 years ago.’ Surprisingly, they later told me that realistic answer was one of the reasons I was hired.

There are an estimated 290 million guns in the U.S. Let’s say for illustration that they are all outlawed, and as many as 95% have been turned in or confiscated. I don’t believe that you could ever get to that high a percentage point, but even if you did, you would still have over 14 million guns in circulation. But now, 95% of the American population is unarmed and defenseless against the people who don’t care what the laws say and who didn’t turn in theirs. Therefore, gun control is not even a realistic concept anymore from where I sit. You either bear Arms, or are vulnerable to those who do.”


AWC Inc.: Agreed. Well said Sir. Thank you. To learn more about Daniel O’Kelly’s  International Firearm Specialist Academy, visit http://www.GunLearn.com.

Former ATF Agent on Ammo Ban

Unplugged: Former ATF Agent Daniel O’Kelly

(Part 1 of 3-Part Series.)


In this AWC exclusive, it was an honor to have Mr. Daniel O’Kelly speak freely with us. Given the Obama Administration proposed ammo ban led by the ATF, it’s a critical time for gun rights in America. Without a doubt, the voice of Daniel O’Kelly should be loud on the subject. After all, he’s a world-renowned gun expert and former ATF agent. Currently, he’s top gun at the International Firearm Specialist Academy.

AWC: Dan, we respect your important work teaching and training professionals and civilians on firearm and ammunition enforcement, technology and compliance. Thanks for taking time with us. It seems g-u-n is in your DNA. Please share a look into your expertise.

Dan O’Kelly: I’ve been a serious student of firearm history and design since I was a kid. I build and collect guns and ammunition. For 10.5 years, I served as a Police Officer and Detective. As an off-duty cop, I worked part-time in a gun store. Since 1981, I’ve been a certified firearm range instructor, and am a factory-trained armorer for 13 gun companies. I’ve taught at law enforcement academies around the world. And of course, I retired from the ATF in 2011 after 23 years as an agent and supervisor. I hope all that didn’t bore you.

AWC: Impressive sir, not boring. Before we touch on the ammo ban, let’s specifically talk ATF. What stands out from serving 23 years?

Daniel O’Kelly: In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms had a big hiring buildup. So, a mandate came down from the top to throw out the ATF Academy Curriculum from A to Z. Along with a handful of other dedicated and highly-qualified agents, I was chosen to be one of the co-writers of the new and improved ATF Academy Curriculum.

AWC: Beyond personal pride, why is this so important?

Daniel O’Kelly: Prior to us, the firearm tech curriculum was only 8 hours long. We developed a comprehensive program which was 6 days long. The ATF leadership said, ‘6 days? No way. We’ll give it 3 ½ days at most. There is need to know information, and nice to know information. We’ll only give need to know.’ So, they threw away 40% of the important material their chosen team of experts prepared and recommended. So this may explain why for years, the saying goes that on some issues, ‘You can ask several different ATF people the same question, and get several different answers.’ It’s not the fault of those in the field, but at times they’re limited by what they were taught.

AWC: Privately, you’re revered by some ATF peers. But because you’ve had the courage to criticize the ATF, publicly you’re about as popular with the bureau these days as AWC Founder, Dimitri Karras, right?

Daniel O’Kelly: There are good, dedicated, and professional folks at ATF, but some are not pleased with me. They’ve been told not to talk with me. They aren’t happy about some of the truths that have been made known. My attitude is, I share the truth because I am proud to have been a Federal Agent. I’ve done my part for years to share information on firearm technology and rulings honorably, and in good faith. I’ve done so hoping to end the instances of people finding themselves in legal jeopardy only because they were poorly informed, or unable to find answers. I expect the ATF to be run in good faith. Let’s not stretch definitions and the truth. An item either has the features listed in a definition or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then re-write the definition if necessary. I believe that’s the honest way to operate.

AWC: Do you believe the ATF is behind the currently proposed ammo ban?

Daniel O’Kelly: Absolutely not. Very little firearm legislation is driven by the ATF. They already have too much to do. The Firearm Technology Branch (now Firearms (sic) and Ammunition Technology Division) is way too busy. If the ATF wanted the proposed ammo ban, they could have dealt with this issue years ago. They didn’t.

Next, in our 3-part series, “Unplugged: Former ATF Agent Daniel O’Kelly,” we’ll get into more of his expert opinions on the proposed ammo ban.

To voice your opinion on the ammo ban use the hashtag #FightAmmoBan