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Published on June 11, 2024
U.S. Attorneys in Texas Launch "Operation Texas Kill Switch" to Combat Illegal Machinegun Conversion DevicesSource: Google Street View

In a concerted effort to stamp out the escalating menace of illicit firearm modifications, Texas-based U.S. Attorneys launched "Operation Texas Kill Switch," focusing on the eradication of so-called "switches," devices that illegally modify firearms into machine guns. During a series of coordinated press events throughout Texas, U.S. Attorneys Leigha Simonton for the Northern District, Alamdar Hamdani for the Southern District, Damien Diggs for the Eastern District, and Jaime Esparza for the Western District, alongside ATF Special Agents in Charge Jeffrey Boshek and Michael Weddel, unveiled the initiative aimed at these conversion devices, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Speaking with disarming simplicity, Simonton illuminated the dangers of the seemingly innocuous plastic pieces, no larger than toy blocks. "Machinegun conversion devices can turn Second Amendment-protected firearms into illegal weapons of war, and petty criminals into brutal killers," she elucidated, as per the U.S. Department of Justice. Despite their small stature, these devices have been associated with an alarming number of violent incidents, including juvenile mass shootings and several police fatalities.

Such switches are crafted from metal or plastic, some merely an inch in length, allowing modification of semi-automatic firearms to fire continuously with a single trigger pull. While ownership of these devices is generally prohibited under the National Firearms Act, their circulation has surged, with Texas ATF agents seizing 991 switches in the past six years, half of which were confiscated in the last year alone. These devices are notoriously accessible, often peddled through social media platforms, reaching not just adults but also the impressionable youth.

With the gravity of the situation in clear view, the Operation Texas Kill Switch initiative has partnered with Crime Stoppers to provide monetary incentives for information leading to arrests or prosecutions relating to switching possession or the manufacturing of said devices using 3D printers. Tipsters bearing crucial information that could potentially lead to arrests in these cases are assured to remain anonymous, guaranteed by law, and may dial **TIPS to contact their local Crime Stoppers program. Additionally, tips can be directly submitted to the ATF through their website.

Maximizing the heft of the federal system, Simonton, Esparza, Diggs, and Hamdani are beckoning local law enforcement to join forces in prosecuting switch-related cases, which can culminate in sentences of up to a decade. They have also co-authored an op-ed in the Austin American Statesman, clarifying the deep-seated implications of this pervasive issue on public safety. Audiences can view demonstrations of machinegun conversion device shootings referenced by the U.S. Attorney's Office to better comprehend the destructive capabilities of such illegal modifications.