Regular pistols are being turned into machine guns using a small attachment called a “conversion switch.” Police in metro Detroit are seeing an increase in these devices and are warning the public of how deadly the modified weapons can be.
“It’s not just to law enforcement, but these are a threat in general to the public,” said Sgt. Derek Stansbury with the Shelby Township police. He is the Firearms Use-Of-Force Instructor for the department
On Wednesday, police said they found a Glock ghost gun with a switch on it in the possession of a man who was shot and killed while trying to flee a traffic stop in Detroit, dragging an officer. A large amount of narcotics were found in his SUV as well.
“Obviously with these mechanisms I’ve seen them, the rate of the gun being altered to shoot 30-40 rounds in like two seconds,” Stansbury said. “So, if you think about that, that’s a lot of rounds potentially hitting things.”
Investigators said the modified Glock found on Wednesay also has an extended magazine, turning it into a fully automatic weapon.
“It’s like taking a paintbrush that has a bunch of paint on the end of it, and you are just slinging it across and the paint drops just go everywhere,” Stansbury added. “It just sprays.”
Gun owners must have a federal firearm license to legally own and use a conversion switch. However, most people are buying them illegally or 3D printing their own using instructions from the dark web.
“What it does is it causes the firearm to fire in rapid succession in a full auto mode.,” Ector explained. “Typically, it’s attached on the back, and if an individual pulls the trigger –as opposed to it being semi-automatic, one trigger pull, one discharge– this person can just merely depress and hold the trigger and cause it to fire successfully.”
In June 2022, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department released information about Immanuel Gates of Pontiac, who was arrested for allegedly buying and importing the switches illegally.
According to court documents, Gates bought the switches from a Russian website and had them shipped over in packaging labeled “safe lawnmower parts.”
“People are sometimes making them with 3D printers and selling them online,” Ector said. “I know the ATF… they’re going after these people very vigorously as far as doing covert buys, and undercover buys, and that kind of thing – and shutting down these websites that people are selling these things on.”