Semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 often make headlines when they are used to commit mass shootings in the United States. But handguns are most often used to commit crimes, according to ATF data.
The Trace and VICE News documented the rise of automatic conversion devices, which quickly and easily modify semiautomatic weapons to fire more than 1,200 rounds per minute and sidestep the federal government’s strict licensing requirements for automatic weapons. Our reporting identified hundreds of cases where criminals and extremists sought out and used conversion devices to carry out robberies, assaults, and murders. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, recoveries of illegally modified machine guns increased from 300 in 2020 to 1,500 last year.
Commonly referred to as “switches” or “chips” on the streets, automatic conversion devices are available for illegal online purchase for as little as $20, and can even be fashioned at home using a 3D printer. Among the most popular type of conversion devices is the auto sear, which is commonly used with Glock handguns.
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