Fed Faces: Charles J. Houser, ATF

July 25, 2011

Charles Houser

Chief, National Tracing Center Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Treasury Department.

Best known for: Heading up the National Tracing Center, the country’s only facility that tracks firearms from manufacturer to purchaser. In fiscal 2010, Houser and his team traced nearly 337,000 firearms recovered from crime scenes, providing investigative leads for federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies. Averaging more than 1,200 trace requests per day, there are many instances in which the NTC has helped law enforcement agencies with their investigations. For example, the center performed a trace on guns used in the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. It also assisted after the shooting at a Tucson event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Government service: Houser was hired in 1988 as a special agent by ATF, became chief of the National Tracing Branch in 2000 and was promoted to chief of the National Tracing Center in 2005.

Biggest challenge: Houser faces growing demands, and he and his staff must be flexible and innovative as they manage limited resources. It often requires weekly shifting of resources and workloads, and responding quickly to emergency calls for assistance.

Quote: “When you halt an illegal source of firearms or help take down a street gang, you can literally help a community overnight. At the end of the day, it’s about a family being able to go to the park and play with their kids without fear.”

— Partnership for Public Service

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