Readers of the National Rifle Association's electronic bulletin boards can learn how to make a bomb out of a baby food jar, read about a conspiracy to disarm all citizens by the year 2000 and vent their anger at the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"For friendship, I doth yearn, while the ATF, they doth burn," wrote a subscriber to the NRA's GUN-TALK in mid-April. "Happiness is a BATF agent sitting on a punji stick," wrote another. "If the Republicans will not disband the ATF or demand the head of {Attorney General Janet} Reno, it might be time for armed conflict over the desecration of the Bill of Rights," wrote a third. "We'll have to see how it pans out."

Eight days after this was written a car bomb destroyed Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. ATF was one of 15 federal agencies with offices inside it. None of ATF's 15 Oklahoma City employees died in the blast. Investigators have not indicated which, if any, agency was the bombers' target, and ATF refuses to make statements on the incident. What is clear, however, is that the far right hates ATF as it hates no other federal law enforcement agency.

"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has not only lost public trust, but deserves public contempt," said the text of a full-page NRA newspaper ad printed in March below pictures of helmeted ATF agents in combat dress. The ad, which appeared in The Washington Post and other major newspapers, described "a tyrannical record of misconduct and abuse" and a "contempt for civil rights" in what it condemned as "a rogue agency."

"Everywhere I go, people come up to me with a horror story about the ATF," NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said in an interview. "What we find is a drift toward entrapment-type cases and harassment of innocent people." The NRA does not single out ATF, LaPierre added, "they single themselves out."

The ATF was condemned by the far right during the siege of the Branch Davidian religious complex in Waco, Tex. Four of its agents were killed by gunfire in a Feb. 28, 1993, assault. Nearly two months later in a federal attack, the compound burned to the ground, killing 85 men, women and children.

A subsequent Treasury Department review of ATF's handling of the affair sharply rebuked the agency for poor planning, inaccurate intelligence and lies by senior agency officials. Six senior administrators, including ATF Director Stephen E. Higgins, lost their jobs. Investigators have said Timothy James McVeigh, arrested in the Oklahoma City bombing, was deeply angered by the Waco affair, and others remain angry. "No Janet, the Waco case is not closed," wrote NRA board member Jeff Cooper in his "commentaries" publication. "We have just passed judgment on their defenders, but it now remains to bring their attackers to justice."

The far right was already incensed by the August 1992 assault on white supremacist Randy Weaver and his family in a plywood cabin in the Idaho woods. Weaver's wife, Vicki, and 14-year-old son, Sammy, were killed by federal agents. A U.S. marshal also died. A federal jury eventually acquitted Weaver of murder, although he was convicted of federal gun violations.

LaPierre described these incidents in Chapter 19 of his book "Guns, Crime and Freedom" under the title "BATF abuses." In fact, however, although ATF initiated both the Weaver and Branch Davidian incidents, the FBI took charge of both investigations, ordering the final assault in Waco. ATF had nothing to do with the Weaver shootings.

Still, LaPierre said he regards the harassment and entrapment of innocent Americans on gun charges as an enduring signature of the ATF: "If you look at abuses across the board, the FBI doesn't do that type of garbage on a day-to-day basis."

But former senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), a longtime student of firearms legislation, noted the FBI does not have primary responsibility to enforce gun laws. "I don't think there's any question that the NRA is using the ATF as a whipping boy," he said. "ATF is charged with gun legislation and that's where NRA comes from."

DeConcini, once the NRA's "man of the year," ran afoul of the group by supporting a ban on some assault weapons. He agreed with LaPierre that ATF had a habit of "overzealous" harassment of legitimate gun dealers, but said the agency had "cleaned up its act" during the 1980s. The NRA has condemned the Oklahoma City bombing, and LaPierre said, "The last thing NRA wants is a fight with ATF." Still, NRA ads and solicitations use inflammatory language about federal law enforcement in general and the ATF in particular.

"If you have a badge, you have the government's go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens," said a recent NRA solicitation letter signed by LaPierre. "Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge . . . Waco and the Branch Davidians. . . . Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens. Not today."

The solicitation calls for lifting the assault weapons ban to even the odds in the struggle between ordinary citizens and "jack-booted government thugs {who have} more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us." The NRA's electronic bulletin boards regularly feature conversations advocating gun violence and exchanges of information about things like "Babyfood Bombs": "These simple, powerful bombs are not very well known even though all the materials can be easily obtained by anyone (including minors)," wrote "Warmaster" on "Bullet'N Board." "These things are so . . . powerful that they can DESTROY a car." LaPierre said the NRA was going to reexamine the bulletin boards and "take another look at trying to police" the traffic, but "every bulletin board has those problems -- how do you keep the one-in-a-million crazy off of it?"