Law enforcement officials in Indianapolis are sounding the alarm over the increasing prevalence of a small plastic device that can convert handguns and rifles into fully automatic weapons.
These devices, known as auto sears or machine gun conversion devices, can be produced cheaply on 3D printers.
According to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Chris Bailey, “The machine gun conversion devices are [an] extreme concern for local, state and federal law enforcement.”
“We’re seeing more and more in our city over the last two years, especially. It’s a concern that we all need to have,” he added.
These devices, commonly referred to as Glock switches, are attached to the rear slide of handguns and enable them to fire multiple rounds with a single trigger pull, as demonstrated by surveillance footage that Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears saw a couple of years ago.
“And you’re just like, ‘What was that? What weapon was involved there?’” Mears recalled. “Because you just see so many shots fired at such a rapid pace.”
Although possessing a handgun is a misdemeanor offense, Mears argued that this penalty was insufficient for those caught carrying these modified machine guns. His office has therefore been charging suspects with possession of a machine gun, which is a felony with a maximum prison sentence of six years.
Since January 2020, Mears’ office has filed 87 such cases, with 15 defendants pleading guilty to the charges. In one case, a man was sentenced to five years in prison and four years in community corrections after he was caught with machine gun-converted handguns and a 3D-printed firearm.
While the devices themselves are relatively inexpensive to make, federal authorities say that converted weapons have been sold for several thousand dollars in Indianapolis. Last year, ATF agents arrested a man for selling Glock handguns with machine gun conversion switches attached for $3,250 each.
The suspect, Zaiveon Perry, was sentenced to two years in federal prison in March.
Although Indiana’s possession of a machine gun law does not currently address handguns or rifles that have been converted into machine guns, a bill that would close this loophole has passed with a wide majority in both the state Senate and House and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
The law would make possessing Glock switches or machine gun conversion devices illegal and would allow state prosecutors to be able to charge those with the device.
“It’s a huge problem,” said Senator Aaron Freeman, one of the sponsors of the measure. “I mean, with a 3D printer and technology nowadays, with virtually very little cost and effort, somebody can take a handgun and modify it into a fully functional automatic weapon.”
Freeman added that the proposed change is modelled after a federal law on machine gun conversion devices. The National Rifle Association did not take a position on the bill.
“I’m a proud Second Amendment person. Everybody who’s eligible should own and possess a firearm if they want to,” Freeman said. “However, a machine gun is an entirely different category.”