Along with the rise in murders in recent years has come another trend: criminals are increasingly modifying their firearms to allow for fully automatic fire, converting simple handguns into tiny machine guns.
Houston police brought 19 cases involving firearms fitted with these “Glock switches” earlier this year, including a shooting that injured three officers. Last year, another Houston police officer was killed while executing a warrant after the criminal pulled a Glock with a switch and opened fire. In April, six people were killed in a large gang shootout in downtown Sacramento where one of the criminals used a gun with a Glock switch, authorities said.
There are no comprehensive national statistics on the proliferation of Glock switches, but it appears that they were used in only a small fraction of violent crimes committed with firearms.
“It’s largely a novelty,” a firearms expert told The Epoch Times.
The switch allows popular Glock handguns to quickly fire bullets with the simple pull of the trigger.
Machine guns are generally illegal in the United States. The exception are those made before 1986, which have become prohibitively expensive, and those held by licensed gun dealers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) considers Glock to be a switch gun. Obtaining one illegally can therefore land a person in federal prison for up to a decade.
In 2020, the ATF in Houston confiscated about 30 such switches. In 2021, the number has risen to nearly 150, local media reported.
A Glock switch is a small device about an inch in diameter. It snaps into the back of the gun and applies pressure to the trigger mechanism so it won’t stop after firing a single shot. A regular Glock can eat up a 30 round magazine in about 2.3 seconds.
Such a gun is very impractical, as the rapid recoil and small size make it difficult to control and extremely inaccurate. Because most Glocks use 9mm ammunition, the recoil is pretty strong and the muzzle will straighten more and more the longer the trigger is pulled, explained Charles Heller, firearms instructor and radio host in Arizona.
“If you’re using a fully automatic Glock, you’re going to be shooting planes pretty quickly,” he told The Epoch Times.
Such a modified weapon becomes more dangerous at close range, he said.
“If you can put three to five hits on someone instead of one or two, it’s more deadly.”
There are a small number of such switches that are legally owned by people with the required license. Some law enforcement agencies also have them, according to Heller.
Unlicensed switches started to proliferate in the last few years after some people in China started making them and selling them online. According to the ATF, they are usually sent directly to the United States or smuggled through Mexico. Some have also been made domestically on 3D printers. The agency identified about 2,500 people who may have purchased one, WGN TV reported in 2019.
An ATF spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the agency has not released any statistics on specific switches and has not been able to verify the figure reported in 2019 “based on information alone. contained in the article”. He noted, however, that “from 2017 to 2021, machine gun conversion devices recovered by the ATF grew from less than 100 to over 1,500”.
That, however, includes other devices that allow fully automatic fire, not just switches, he clarified by email.
In Heller’s opinion, Glock Switches – or machine guns, for that matter – shouldn’t be illegal in the first place, according to the Second Amendment, and since the Switches are so primitive and can be 3D printed, it won’t be Not possible. to prevent people who are willing to break the law from acquiring them, he argued.
“The genie came out of the bottle on 3D printing, you can never undo it,” he said.