Houston/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on June 10, 2024
"Operation Texas Kill Switch" Launched by U.S. Attorneys to Combat Illegal Machinegun Conversion Devices in TexasSource: U.S. Courts

In a coordinated blitz against the proliferation of illegal machinegun conversion devices known as "switches," U.S. Attorneys across Texas have banded together to institute "Operation Texas Kill Switch." These devices, small enough to be concealed in the palm of a hand, have been linked to multiple fatal incidents, including juvenile mass shootings and the killing of law enforcement officers. "Switches" are capable of transforming standard firearms into fully automatic weapons, capable of expediting death at a frightening pace, and possessing them is largely illegal under federal law.

The initiative, which was announced in simultaneous press conferences across the state, involves U.S. Attorneys Alamdar S. Hamdani, Leigha Simonton, Damien Diggs, and Jaime Esparza, alongside ATF Special Agents Michael Weddel and Jeffrey Boshek, who made clear the imminent danger posed by these devices, which allow for rapid-fire shooting comparable to military-grade weapons, "Today is an important step to put on notice those who traffic in switches and who use switches," Hamdani said, according to a Justice Department release; this all while the ATF teams in Texas have witnessed a stark rise in the recovery of these devices, with a significant 50 percent of the seizures coming from the last year alone, their presence in the streets has spiked substantial alarm about their origins, sales pathways, and lethal potential, especially since they can be 3D printed.

A critical component of "Operation Texas Kill Switch" is an alliance with the Crime Stoppers programs across Texas, which incentivizes residents to report those in possession of switches or the means to manufacture them. People can send tips anonymously 24 hours a day, and because the law guarantees their confidentiality, they can do so without fear of reprisal. The information leading to arrests or prosecutions might not only stem the tide of these dangerous devices but also earn the tipster a cash reward. Details on how to provide tips are available via *TIPS or directly through the ATF's website.

Pushing back against this wave of illegal firepower is not only federal efforts but also a call for closer cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, as maximum federal sentences for possessing or trafficking these conversion devices can reach up to 10 years, "Today’s important initiative is aimed at raising awareness of illegal machine gun conversation devices also known as ‘switches,'" said ATF Special Agent Weddel, and this reflects a grounded understanding of the seriousness of this threat, the action is a comprehensive attempt at regulatory and criminal enforcement synergy that looks towards mitigating a culture of gun violence that has seeped its way into Texas's urban sprawls and quiet hamlets alike.

While the joint op-ed by the U.S. Attorneys in the Austin American Statesman lays out the full crux of their strategy, public awareness and cooperation remain vital. The accessibility of these devices—marketed indiscriminately to adults and youth—is a testament to the pressing need for community engagement in the campaign to ensure public safety.