Surge in Illegally Converted Firearms Sparks Increase in Gun Violence in the U.S.

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Converted glock with a “switch” capable of turning this semi-automatic pistol to fully automatic.

The surge in gun violence across the United States has taken a new, alarming turn with the increased use of illegally converted firearms capable of firing like machine guns. An incident in Cincinnati that resulted in the tragic death of 11-year-old Domonic Davis and injured several others highlighted the deadly impact of these modifications. Authorities believe that the 22 shots fired in the attack came from a weapon that had been altered to shoot continuously, a capability made possible by small pieces of metal or plastic easily made with a 3D printer or purchased online.

Federal laws have long prohibited machine guns, a regulation stemming from the era of Prohibition gangsters. However, the recent spread of devices known as Glock switches, auto sears, or chips has made it straightforward to turn legal semi-automatic weapons into vastly more lethal firearms. This trend is contributing to an upsurge in shootings, posing a significant threat to public safety and law enforcement officers alike. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has reported a staggering 570% increase in the seizure of these conversion devices by police from 2017 to 2021.

Conversion devices have been linked to several high-profile mass shootings, including tragedies at a Sweet Sixteen party in Alabama and a bar district in Sacramento, California. The ease of manufacturing these devices on a 3D printer or importing them from abroad for a minimal cost has exacerbated the problem. With these modifications, semi-automatic weapons can fire continuously with a single press of the trigger, unleashing a torrent of bullets until the ammunition is depleted or the trigger is released.

The rising prevalence of converted firearms calls for urgent action to address this loophole in gun regulation. As the ATF and law enforcement agencies grapple with this escalating threat, communities across the nation are left to mourn the senseless loss of lives, such as young Domonic Davis’s, and to seek solutions to stem the tide of gun violence.

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