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Law enforcement and lawmakers target 3D-printed devices that turn handguns into machine guns

Posted at 5:46 PM, Apr 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-20 11:39:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A small piece of plastic that turns handguns or rifles into fully-automatic weapons is becoming a common danger on Indianapolis streets, law enforcement officials say.

They are called auto sears, and are also known as machine gun conversion devices or Glock switches. They can be made cheaply on a 3D printer.

"The machine gun conversion devices are extreme concern for local, state and federal law enforcement," said Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. "We're seeing more and more in our city over the last two years, especially. It's a concern that we all need to have."

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.

They do exactly what the name implies. A handgun with one of these devices will spray dozens of rounds with a single pull of the trigger.

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said he first learned of the danger a couple years ago when he saw surveillance video of a shooting involving auto sear.

"And you're just like 'What was that? What weapon was involved there?'" Mears said. "Because you just see so many shots fired at such a rapid pace."

AR-style pistol.jpg
This handgun is modified with an auto sear, stock and other accessories to mimic a fully automatic AR-15 style rifle. This weapon was seized from a suspect in Indianapolis.

Mears said the misdemeanor charge of possessing a handgun just didn't seem appropriate for people caught carrying these modified machine guns.

"These weapons pose in much greater risk and threat to public safety, and so that's why we decided to file those charges as possession of a machine gun.

Mears's office has been charging people caught with these devices with possession of a machine gun, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison if convicted.

The prosecutor's office filed 87 such cases since January 2020; 15 defendants have pleaded guilty to the charge.

In one of those cases, Dwight King pleaded guilty to possession of a machine gun and other crimes after he was caught with machine-gun converted handguns and a 3D-printed firearm

In October, a Marion County judge sentenced King to five years in prison and four years iin Community Corrections.

Dwight King has been sentenced after pleading guilty to multiple felony gun cases involving Glock switches, and a 3D-printed firearm.

While the devices don't cost much to make, federal authorities say converted weapons have sold in Indianapolis for several thousand dollars.

In 2022, ATF agents arrested an Indianapolis man who was selling Glock handguns with the machine-gun conversion switches attached for $3,250. New Glock handguns typically sell for $400 to $600.

Zaiveon Perry, 24, told agents he had sold at least seven of the converted Glocks. Perry was sentenced to two years in federal prison in March.

Indiana's possession of a machine gun law doesn't specifically address rifles or handguns that have been converted into machine guns, but that's changing.

A bill closing this loophole passed overwhelmingly in both the Indiana Senate and House. It is currently awaiting the governor's signature.

Sen Freeman portrait1.jpg
Sen. Aaron Freeman

"It's a huge problem," said Sen. Aaron Freeman, an Indianapolis Republican and one of several sponsors of the measure. "I mean, with a 3D printer and technology nowadays, with virtually very little cost and effort, somebody can take a handgun and modify it into a fully functional automatic weapon."

Freeman said the change mirror federal law on machine gun conversion devices. The National Rifle Association, Freeman said, took no position on the bill.

"I'm a proud Second Amendment person. Everybody that's eligible should own and possess a firearm if they want to," Freeman said. "However, a machine gun is a entirely entirely different category."

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on Twitter: @vicryc.