Spanberger, Klobuchar, Peters, Casten Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Combat Increased Use of Illegal Gun Conversion Devices

May 02, 2023
Gun Safety
Press

From 2017 to 2021, Federal Prosecutions Involving Auto Sears & Other Illegal Gun Conversion Devices Increased More Than Eight-Fold

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger — a former federal law enforcement officer — joined colleagues in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to introduce legislation that would combat the proliferation of illegal gun conversion devices.

Spanberger’s Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act would help protect Virginia families, children, and law enforcement officers by strengthening efforts to prevent the importation and trafficking of “auto sears” — illegal gun modification devices that can convert semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic weapons. Auto sears — also known as “glock switches” — can be installed in approximately one minute, and they can be 3-D printed or purchased online for less than $20.

“As a former federal law enforcement officer who carried a gun for my job every day, I understand the very real threat of criminals modifying firearms to inflict as much damage as possible. And as a legislator and parent, I’m focused on doing more to keep our communities, our first responders, and our children safe from gun violence,” said Spanberger. “This legislation would crack down on glock switches, which are illegal devices that turn a handgun into a machine gun and significantly increase lethality. By providing law enforcement with the tools they need to stop criminals and gun traffickers, this bill would reduce the dangers posed by auto sears.”

Spanberger led the introduction of the Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act in the U.S. House alongside U.S. Representative Sean Casten (D-IL-06). U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — a Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee — and Gary Peters (D-MI) — Chairman of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

“As we work to tackle the gun violence epidemic that is plaguing our country, we must address the alarming prevalence of gun conversion devices that can turn ordinary hand guns into automatic weapons. These devices that can be easily 3-D printed or cheaply purchased online have devastating consequences for public safety,” said Klobuchar. “By preventing the importation and trafficking of these deadly devices and by stopping traffickers from profiting from illegal sales, this legislation will help keep our communities safe and save lives.”

“Law enforcement must do more to protect our communities from gun violence by stopping the flow of illegal gun modification devices into and throughout our country,” said Peters. “This bill will enhance coordination across law enforcement agencies to prevent these dangerous and deadly devices from being used.”

“Our communities deserve to be safer from gun violence,” said Casten. “This epidemic needs to be addressed head on and that includes the proliferation of illegal gun conversion. Any device that allows a semi-automatic weapon to convert into a fully automatic weapon should not be accessible. This bill will prevent the importation and trafficking of these dangerous modifications.”

“As communities across the country suffer unprecedented levels of gun violence, it is critical that Congress take swift action to address the proliferation of auto sears and other machine gun conversion devices. These small devices are capable of grave damage and destruction and are being recovered by local, state, and federal law enforcement from crime scenes at alarming rates. When used with a semiautomatic firearm, conversion devices enable shooters to replicate machine gun fire, making them a deadly threat to public safety and law enforcement. We applaud Senators Klobuchar and Peters as well as Congresswoman Spanberger for their leadership and introducing the Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act,” said Adzi Vokhiwa, Federal Affairs Director, GIFFORDS.

A 2022 investigation found that federal prosecutions involving gun conversion devices increased more than eight-fold from 2017 to 2021. Additionally, the investigation reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seized 1,500 weapons modified with auto sears in 2021, a five-fold increase from the year before.

To combat increased use of illegal gun conversion devices, the Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act would: 

  • Direct the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of the Treasury to develop a coordinated national strategy to prevent or intercept the importation and trafficking of automatic gun conversion devices;
  • Make sure that proceeds from the illegal trafficking of automatic gun devices are subject to forfeiture; and 
  • Require that the U.S. Attorney General include data and information about illegal gun modification devices in the U.S. Department of Justice’s annual firearms trafficking report.

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