HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- They work to trace guns used in crimes throughout the Chicagoland area, but they are also responsible for so much more.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gave ABC7 a firsthand exclusive look Wednesday at how they train, and the breadth of their duties.
Military precision trained agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Chicago division execute controlled explosions, demonstrating to participants of their inaugural Citizen's Academy the complexity and scope of their law enforcement responsibilities.
"We have a broader mission to regulate the explosives industry, regulate the firearms industry, to respond to arson, explosives incidents, and things like that, so it's really important for us to get to showcase all of that," said Kristen De Tineo, ATF Chicago Field Division special agent in charge.
De Tineo said controlled explosions are just one of the tools used by ATF as they keep abreast of the latest ways criminals try to keep an upper hand, like turning a semi automatic handgun into an automatic.
"Probably the most concerning emerging trend that we are seeing is the proliferation of the 'switches' or conversion devices that can allow these firearms to fire 30 rounds in 1.5 seconds," she said
But it's not just guns and weapons investigations, it's also responding in the worst of times to explosive removal, explosions and fire investigations, like last week at the West Austin building explosion in Chicago.
"ATF also has a certified fire investigator program to go in and determine the origin and cause of these explosions and fires," said Devin Palmer, Chicago arson explosives group resident agent in charge.
There's also SWAT-like response, breaching doors, trained marksmen with incredible accuracy, and bomb-sniffing dogs in the Justice Department's law enforcement arm that's lean and nimble.
"I was very surprised to hear and learn how they used data to solve crimes across the United States and internationally," said April Bernard, an ATF Citizen's Academy participant.
"Programs like this allow us to get closer to the people keeping us safe, and I think that's an important component of governance and of being governed," said Michael Korman, a fellow ATF Citizen's Academy participant.
More than 20 Citizen's Academy participants graduate Wednesday after a month of training with a new understanding.