HomeTop StoriesProsecutors in Texas hope to get illegal 3D-printed machine gun switches off...

Prosecutors in Texas hope to get illegal 3D-printed machine gun switches off the streets

U.S. attorneys from across Texas and the ATF have announced a new statewide initiative to tackle switches — illegal machine gun conversion devices that can be made on a 3D printer.

Switches can “transform commercially available firearms into fully automatic weapons that can fire faster than military-grade M4s,” federal authorities said Monday as they announced “Operation Texas Kill Switch.”

“We’re here to talk about a piece of plastic about an inch long. It looks innocuous enough, a bit like a Lego or a K’nex block. But this one-inch piece of plastic is killing people,” the U.S. attorney said Leigha Simonton of the Northern District of Texas said Monday at a news conference in Dallas. “Machine gun conversion devices can turn Second Amendment-protected firearms into illegal weapons of war, and petty criminals into brutal murderers.”

The number of switches found by law enforcement has increased dramatically in recent years, and they have been used in at least one mass shooting and multiple attacks that killed police officers, authorities said. According to the ATF, its Texas-based agents seized 991 of the devices between 2017 and 2023, with 50% of them seized last year.

Switches can be made of metal or plastic and are often sold through social media, authorities said. The devices can usually be inserted into the butt of a pistol so that it is fully automatic and can fire dozens of rounds with a single pull of the trigger. Legal semi-automatic weapons fire only one round when the trigger is pulled.

“We can’t let our streets turn into war zones,” Simonton said. “We cannot – and we will not – allow switches to spread in North Texas.”

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Possession of the devices is illegal except in very limited circumstances, under the National Firearms Act. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of ten years in the federal system.

The statewide operation includes a partnership with Crime Stopper programs throughout Texas. Now through August 31, Crime Stoppers is offering cash rewards for information leading to the arrest or prosecution of people in possession of switches or 3D printers used to manufacture them. To qualify for cash rewards, tipsters must provide information to their local Crime Stoppers program. Information can also be submitted directly to the ATF at atf.gov/contact/atf-tips.

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