Law enforcement agencies around the country are aiming to crackdown on an increasingly common illegal firearm device known as a “Glock switch” that can turn a handgun into a fully automatic weapon.
The nickel-sized device, technically referred to as a machinegun conversion device (MCD) but colloquially known as a “switch” or “chip,” can be fit onto a 9mm Glock handgun to allow the weapon to fire off an entire magazine in just seconds.
Despite being referred to as a “Glock switch,” the company has nothing to do with the production of MCDs.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department explained that the term “Glock switch” is misleading as the company has nothing to do with the device.
“Glock does not make ‘Glock switches,’ so, while they are used on Glock handguns, it can potentially be misleading to use their name when referring to the specific device,” an IMPD news release read.
Under the National Firearms Act, MCDs are gun accessories defined as machine guns even when not installed.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said the devices are used to convert ordinary semiautomatic pistols into automatic firearms, which can be incredibly dangerous.
Under federal law, owning such a device can carry up to 10 years in prison.
According to the ATF, the number of guns with switches seized by the law enforcement agencies is on the rise, increasing by more than five times from 300 in 2020 to 1,500 in 2021.
Officials say the devices can be purchased online from Russia or China or can even be made using a 3D printer.
According to Dallas Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia, law enforcement in the Dallas-Fort Worth area seized 775 Glock switches last year, with about 650 seized during a crackdown in Fort Worth. During the investigation, it was discovered that one alleged dealer was printing the devices himself.
In addition, in January this year, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton announced the arrest of a dealer in Dallas who allegedly was selling MCDs on Instagram.
Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office are also cracking down on the devices, which they say are a growing threat to the community.
“Extremely dangerous,” Grand Rapids Chief Eric Winstrom said. “Extremely difficult to aim even for trained individuals. So when they’re used carelessly or intentionally, there is an extreme danger for damage and collateral damage.”
“We haven’t seen a murder involving one of those here, but we have seen an uptick in Kent County of those popping up,” Winstrom said.
The chief said that he used to encounter the devices as a commander working in Chicago.
“They would be used, and four or five people would be shot where the person only intended to shoot one, which is bad enough,” the police chief said. “But now whole blocks are getting shot up. That’s something that’s on our radar that we’re all very concerned about.”
According to one former ATF agent, the devices are responsible for a significant amount of collateral damage in gang shootings or drive-by shootings.
“These weapons are very hard to control, they fire so quickly that it’s literally spraying bullets unless you are very well trained in a machine gun,” former ATF agent Scott Sweetow said. “So often innocent people get hit. It’s not just a gang drive-by shooting and hitting their one target, which is bad enough, it’s hitting innocent people, and that is exactly what is happening in shooting incidents across America.”