“I would describe it as dangerous,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tommy Estevan said.
It only takes seconds. The agency tracked down a small device called a vehicle conversion device, better known as a “switch,” that could give a conventional gun more power.
“It essentially turns a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun,” Agent Estevan explained. “So instead of firing one round from the firearm with one pull of the trigger, when the trigger is placed on the firearm, you’re looking at 1,200 rounds per pull of the trigger in one minute.”
Assistant Special Agent Estavan explained that this type of device is increasingly being used by criminals.
In mid-January, metro police arrested six people, including teenagers, for possession of prohibited weapons. Detectives say they found handguns equipped with switches in each incident.
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“The power of fire in the hands of someone who intends to use it in a crime is definitely a concern,” Agent Estava said. “To me, it’s not just about law enforcement safety, but about the public safety of our community.”
The ATF has investigated as many as 112 cases in the past 2 years specifically focusing on switches.
“It used to be an anomaly, these breakers were seen on the west coast, but today we’re seeing more and more of them. I will tell you that in 2021-2022, we have seen a 40% increase within our jurisdiction here in Nashville, which includes the states of Tennessee and Alabama,” Agent Estava explained.
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Law enforcement agencies warn that the penalties for using one of these weapons will be significantly higher, even if the weapon is never fired, just because it could land you with serious charges.