New Head of Minn. ATF Office Vows to Attack Gun Violence

Posted at: 02/25/2013 4:02 PM
Updated at: 02/25/2013 10:05 PM
By: Stephen Tellier

At a time when gun rights and gun control are at the top of the local and national agenda, there's a new man in charge of the federal fight to cut down on gun crime in Minnesota.

For the new Special Agent in Charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' St. Paul office, the main point of attack is clear.
"Focus on where the violent crimes are, where the shooters are, where the gang members are, and the weapons trafficking," said Scott Sweetow, who took over the office last month, and was most recently in charge of the ATF's Atlanta office.
In his two decades with the agency, one thing hasn't changed.
"We've had roughly the same number of special agents since when I started in 1990," Sweetow said.
So he said his mission in Minnesota is to maximize efficiency.
"We cannot magically create bodies. We can't really expand our resources. So what we need to do is be smart about what we've got," Sweetow said.
He wants to make the office more proactive -- stopping violence before it starts with a renewed focus on intelligence gathering. He also wants to increase the use of a system that allows law enforcement to analyze shell casings like they're fingerprints.
"We can actually link shootings that have occurred in one place to shootings that have occurred in another place," Sweetow said.
And he said he realizes he is sitting firmly under the microscope, as the gun reform debate rages on.
"Politics aside, personal feelings aside, we've got a mission and we've got to drive on," Sweetow said.
The St. Paul ATF field office oversees not just Minnesota, but Wisconsin and the Dakotas as well. Sweetow said one of his biggest challenges will be dealing with the wide variety of gun laws that various state and local governments have in place across those four states.
Watch an extended clip of the interview with Sweetow here.