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ATF Director B. Todd Jones to step down this month

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The head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to step down at the end of the month, more than three years after taking over the agency as it was reeling from a botched sting operation.

B. Todd Jones was the first ATF director confirmed by the Senate, taking office in July 2013. Prior to that, he served for nearly two years as the agency’s interim chief in the wake of its “Fast and Furious” gun-walking program, which caused a major controversy and led to the departure of several officials.

ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon will head the agency on a temporary basis while the White House identifies a nominee to become Jones’s permanent replacement.

“ATF employees are hard-working, dedicated individuals who serve the public to make our nation safer every day,” Jones said in a statement on Friday. “I will truly miss leading and working side-by-side with these men and women in their pursuit of ATF’s unique law enforcement and regulatory mission.”

During his stint as acting ATF director, Jones continued serving as the U. S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, a post he had held since 2009. He left that role after his Senate confirmation. The post has been subject to Senate confirmation only since 2006.

Jones’s departure comes roughly one month after the ATF proposed banning armor-piercing .223-caliber bullets. The move caused an outcry among gun-rights advocates, prompting the agency to drop its plans.

[How angry gun owners shouted down a ban on armor-piercing bullets]

The outgoing director has been widely credited with stabilizing the ATF following the Fast and Furious controversy, improving morale at the agency and cleaning up some of the management practices that allowed the program to move forward despite risks to the public.

The operation started during the George W. Bush administration and lasted into the early part of President Obama’s tenure. It allowed weapons from the United States to pass into the hands of suspected firearms traffickers, with the goal of tracking the weapons to the upper levels of Mexican drug cartels.

Controversy arose after a gun linked to the program was found at the scene of the fatal 2010 shooting of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Brandon, who will succeed Jones, has worked with the ATF for more than 26 years.  He served as the special agent in charge of the Detroit and Phoenix field divisions before becoming deputy director.

The last permanent ATF director was Carl J. Truscott, who resigned in August 2006 amid a review of spending on the agency’s new headquarters. That same year, the National Rifle Association successfully lobbied to include a provision in the Patriot Act reauthorization bill that changed the position to a Senate-confirmed role.

Acting appointees filled the position until the Senate narrowly approved Jones’s nomination in 2013. The gun lobby opposed previous nominees who were considered hostile to firearms dealers.

Past coverage: Inspector general critical of Justice Dept., ATF in ‘Fast and Furious’ operation