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Feds "very concerned" about illegal devices that make handguns into mini-machine guns

These small parts are turning handguns into machine guns
These small parts are turning handguns into machine guns 05:42

Federal investigators say they've seen an explosion in the production of handgun switches in North Texas over the last six months, CBS Dallas' Brian New reports.

When placed on the back of a gun, the small, simple devices can change a handgun into a mini-machine gun.

Instead of firing just one bullet when the trigger is pulled, the illegal devices enable multiple rounds to be fired by holding down the trigger.  As many as 30 rounds can be fired in two seconds.

"These things fire faster than what the military is carrying," said Jeffrey Boshek, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives (ATF) Dallas Field Division. "That's how fast these switches are making these handguns. It's a real problem."

A handgun with an illegal switch attached CBS Dallas

In May 2020, a traffic stop in Arlington, Texas led to one of the first cases in a recent string of busts in the area for alleged possession of an illegal switch.

Karo Khudanyan, 23, was pulled over for speeding when the odor of marijuana led an officer to discover five large bags of marijuana along with a small black box attached to a handgun in Khudanyan's vehicle, according to police records.

Police body camera video obtained by the CBS Dallas I-Team shows that the first officers on-scene didn't know what the device attached to the gun was. It was later determined to be a handgun switch.

Khudanyan pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of an unregistered firearm and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison.

CBS 11 News

There have been other cases.

In December, Ramon Navarro, of Dallas, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of an unregistered firearm after he tried selling three switches to an undercover ATF agent.

In March, Martin Avina, also of Dallas, was sentenced to four years in prison for selling illegal switches. According to court records, Avina and his co-conspirators sold 20 switches to an undercover ATF agent. The men were advertising on Snapchat.

In recent months, local ATF agents have been confiscating switches nearly every week — and recent busts revealed the problem may become harder to get a handle on. 

No longer are switches just being manufactured overseas and sold online. Many are now being made locally with inexpensive 3D printers in less than 20 minutes. The locally made switches are being sold on social media apps, including Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.

"This has been a big shift," Boshek said. "These things are coming from Dallas, Arlington, Fort Worth, all over here in North Texas."

He said that in the four years he's overseen the Dallas ATF Field Division, the recent proliferation of switches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is what's scared him most.

"It is very concerning," he said.

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