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Illegal guns, switches and straw purchases: 5 questions with ATF's Indiana and Ohio chief

Daryl S. McCormick leads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Ohio and Indiana.
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Posted at 3:51 PM, May 08, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — Daryl S. McCormick leads the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Ohio and Indiana.

Before he joined the ATF in 2002, McCormick was a police officer in Anderson, Ind., where he served as both a patrol officer and a detective.

His main office is in Columbus, Ohio, but he oversees all of Ohio and most of southern Indiana.

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ATF Special Agent in Charge Daryl McCormick

WRTV met with McCormick while he was here on a recent visit to Indianapolis. Here are five questions for the man in charge of our local ATF office.

Question: Indiana's Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signed a law making machine gun conversion devices, also known as switches, illegal. How often are ATF agents encountering these devices at crime scenes?

McCormick: "A couple of years ago, we saw very few of them. In the last year, it's they've really exploded on the scene. We're seeing those frequently, it seems like once a week at a search warrant or some sort of interdiction activity, we come up on these. We're seeing them increasingly at scenes... ATF just released a study where we showed that there's been almost a 600% increase in the recovery of Glock switches at crime scenes in the last five years."

Glock switch Auto sear
The small device attached to the rear slide of this handgun transforms it into a fully automatic weapon. This gun modified with an auto-sear or "Glock switch" device was seized from a suspect in Indianapolis.

Q: What is ATF doing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals?

McCormick: "I can tell you what we are doing and what we need to do more of and that's looking at the source of how criminals get their guns. One of the emerging trends that I'm seeing right now is an increase in straw purchasing. We measure that by looking at the firearms that are recovered and traced. In the Indianapolis area... we have found in the last year or two that 10% of all firearms recovered and traced had a time to crime of 90 days or less. That means they were purchased at a retail store, licensed dealer, and within 90 days are recovered by law enforcement at a crime scene. So that's a staggering number. And 30% have a time-to-crime of one year or less. That's a really good indicator of a straw purchase. That is someone went into a licensed dealer acquired a firearm for pretty much the sole purpose of providing that to a criminal who couldn't otherwise acquire a firearm."

Q: And that's a federal crime. What kind of punishment does a straw purchaser face?

McCormick: "It's under the Safe Communities Act, the recent legislation as passed by Congress that makes that a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

Gun guns gun store
In this photo taken Friday, Dec. 21, 2108, handguns for sale are lined up in a display case at Frontier Justice in Lee's Summit, Mo. The suburban Kansas City gun store is courting women with department-store touches such as a scent machine and a high-end women’s fashion boutique. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Q: Licensed gun dealers are required to perform background check and fill out federal paperwork. That is not the case for private sellers. What can ATF do about private gun sales?

McCormick: "Private sales are not regulated. Responsible gun owners I know don't want to sell firearms to criminals and they certainly don't want to have a firearm that they owned at one point in time being used in a crime. So I'd ask those responsible gun owners,to be careful about who you sell to. And if you don't feel comfortable with it, if you think that someone's prohibited, then don't do the transaction."

Q: How big a problem are stolen firearms?

McCormick: "It's another huge problem for us. In a five-year time period between 2017 and 2021, there were over a million firearms stolen from private citizens. And 95% of all firearm stamps are from private citizens. Clearly, if someone's stealing a firearm, it's almost certain that that's going to be in the hands of people who otherwise could not legally possess a firearm...
Again, responsible gun owners the last thing they want and is for their firearm be stolen. That's not to place blame on them. They're a victim of the theft. But measures that you can take to prevent that is what we suggest, obviously."

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.