Washington Post goes ballistic on conversion switches that turn semi-autos into 'machine guns,' neglect real issue

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Firearm conversion switch by is licensed under YouTube

One problem with the anti-gun crowd is the amount of hyperbole they use in trying to convince the American public that guns are evil. While not meant to downplay the fact that criminals appear to have ready access to firearms, when such statements are included in attempting to address an issue that would concern even the most ardent 2A supporters, all credibility is lost. 

Such is the case of an article in the Washington Post, discussing a small device called a “conversion switch” that can convert semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic firearms–machine guns to the uneducated. 

In describing the conversion switch, the Post makes the laughable claim that such a device can convert a semi-automatic firearm “into guns capable of firing 20 bullets in one second–with one pull of the trigger.” As stated, zero credibility. 

The fact of the matter is the current psychosis over conversion switches is being used in an election cycle to whip up the left-wing base to vote for the feeble old man in the White House. Conversion switches are nothing new and were widely reported last year. The fact of the matter is these switches are already illegal. That, of course, won’t stop the gun-grabbing lobby from once again targeting firearms manufacturers and lawful gun owners. 

The Post cites several stories where conversion switches were used by criminals to convert legal firearms (that is, legal for non-felons) into automatic weapons. One case in Sacramento last year during a gang war left six dead in what was referred to as “Sacramento’s deadliest mass shooting.” Note this was classified by the Post as a “mass shooting” as opposed to what it was…gang violence. 

In Minneapolis, a criminal carrying a handgun equipped with a switch wounded eight people in a shooting that, according to the post, was “amid a spray of 40 bullets fired in just seconds.” 

Sadly, in 2021, a Houston police officer was killed and wounded by a criminal carrying a pistol outfitted with such a device. 

In another incident cited, a drug dealer was shot during a deal and returned fire using a switch-equipped firearm and opened fire on the other carload of criminals who were in a car that had been used in a drive-by shooting. Two individuals were wounded in that case, court records said. 

In Washington, D.C., Matthew Graves, U.S. Attorney for the district, confirmed an increase in the number of conversion devices seized in the district. In 2021, there were 27 guns with such devices recovered; last year, the number was 119, and thus far, in 2023, 150 such firearms have been discovered. Graves also noted that many of these seized guns hold more than the legal amount of bullets permitted and, in fact, have also seized drum magazines, which can hold 50 or more bullets. 

“We have no shortage, unfortunately, of crime scenes where we have strong reason to believe, based on the number of rounds expended, that one of these devices was used,” Graves said. With that said local and federal authorities in D.C. were unable to provide any examples of a converted semi-automatic weapon causing injury or death in D.C. 

Switches–which are also known as switches, sears, auto sears, giggle switches, conversion devices, and Glock switches (not made by the manufacturer)--are already illegal. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives already considers the devices machine guns, even though they do not contain bullets, according to Craig B. Kailimai, special agent in charge of ATF’s Washington, D.C. field division. 

“That would be illegal,” he said. “The device itself.” 

While the devices are typically made of metal or plastic, with some (big shock) being imported from China, they can also be constructed using 3D printers. Kailiamai said the printing process takes about 45 minutes. 

Machine guns have been outlawed in the United States since Congress outlawed them back in 1934. That, however, hasn’t stopped criminals from acquiring them. They are legal under some circumstances by civilians, but those circumstances are heavily regulated, as are conversion switches, which can also be purchased under certain conditions. 

Since the military and law enforcement have a need for automatic weapons to counter the bad guys, they cannot simply approach manufacturers to have them stop making guns that can easily be converted, Kailimai said. 

Daniel Webster, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Violence Solutions, said there isn’t a lot of data on the use of conversion switches, saying “they’ve been understudied.” 

“But it’s relatively intuitive, something that creates the equivalent of an automatic weapon is going to get a lot more bullets flying in a  short amount of time,” Webster said. He also advocates for higher penalties for possession of switches and suggests prosecutors seek those penalties and judges enforce them. 

“It’s the functional equivalent of an automatic weapon,” he said. “Who among the law-abiding gun ownership crowd wants to argue that these are fundamental to their Second Amendment rights?” 

He also suggested that “law enforcement should make it clear that federal law on firearms should apply to every weapon that has a switch.” He also believes prosecutors who have reduced prosecution of drug offenders in urban areas should make exceptions for guns with switches attached. 

Graves agreed, saying, “They’re basically being treated the same in our criminal justice system as the firearms that don’t have these devices there.” 

In the Houston incident, Officer William Jeffrey was shot and killed in Oct. 2021 by a suspect firing an automatic handgun, while in Jan. 2022, three officers were wounded by a suspect with a switch-equipped gun. 

“There is absolutely no reason or room for our suspects to be armed like this,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said at a news conference after the shooting of Jeffrey while showing body cam footage. “This is a threat that is here, and it’s a threat to everybody–law enforcement and citizens in every neighborhood in our community.” The suspect in Off. Jeffrey’s death was killed when police returned fire. 

Part of the issue that gun control zealots refuse to address is the fact that many gun crimes are not prosecuted, considered low-hanging fruit by progressive prosecutors anxious to embrace decarceration efforts. That was not lost on Graves. 

He noted that in Washington, D.C., courts often release gun offenders before trial and, moreover, typically sentence offenders to probation if they’re convicted. He said those offenders usually return to the street, where they re-offend. He also noted there has been a sharp increase in the number of gun convictions his office has seen overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“That effectively is a message unintentionally being said that firearms possession is not that serious,” Graves said. “And that is the dead wrong message right now.” 

Connecticut is widely touted as having some of the “toughest” gun laws in the country. However, according to the Office of Legislative Research and analysis by Connecticut Inside Investigator, over 65% of firearm-related charges in Connecticut’s court system between 2013 and 2022 were dismissed or nolled (the prosecutor declined to prosecute). 

The excuse given by the Office of Legislative Research is that gun charges are dropped as part of a plea deal where “lesser charges” are dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to other charges. 

While much attention has been placed on so-called “assault weapons,” in Connecticut during the same period, 73% of charges stemming from illegal possession, transfer, or transport of an assault weapon were dismissed or nolled. 

Yet despite Connecticut’s pathetic record on gun prosecutions, the General Assembly last year doubled down on their gun-grabbing agenda, passing a series of laws that history shows will essentially go not prosecuted, 15 in all. 

After the laws were passed and signed into law, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) bragged:

“Over the years, Connecticut has shown time and again that we can improve public safety by implementing reasonable gun violence prevention laws while also respecting the rights of Americans to own guns for their own protection and sportsmanship,” Lamont said. “This bill that I’ve signed continues that fair, commonsense balance.” 

Several pro-2A groups have filed lawsuits against some of the laws. Republican Rep. Craig Fishbein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, found it “ironic” that the OLR report was released just after Lamont signed more gun control bills into law. 

“I find it most ironic that mere days after President Biden and his fellow anti-gunners held a rally heralding the passage of more laws that attack law-abiding gun owners, that Connecticut discloses that many of the existing laws are not being prosecuted, “Fishbein said. “Clearly, their initiative is more about politics and less about preventing the gun crimes plaguing our cities.”

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