2.3 seconds of terror – illegal modified guns are hitting Mobile streets
Device called Glock chip converts semi-automatic guns into fully automatic machine guns
A thin piece of metal known as a Glock switch or chip converted the weapon from a semi-automatic gun to a fully automatic machine gun.
On Thursday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives demonstrated the device. An agent fired a standard Glock and got off 15 rounds in 8.32 seconds. Then he flipped the switch on the gun to make it an automatic and unloaded 30 rounds in just 2.3 seconds – double the bullets in a quarter of the time.
Mickey French, special agent in charge of the ATF Field Division in Nashville, Tennessee, said the agency is investigating more than 1,500 Glock chip cases nationwide. That includes nine in Mobile, which is part of his division.
“They started out on the West Coast and they’re slowly creeping east,” he said. “In January, I hadn’t seen a single one in Alabama or in middle-east Tennessee. Now we have hundreds of these that are showing up.”
One of the cases involves Trenteon Jeveon King, the “most wanted” suspect who had been the subject of a manhunt ever since police accused him of shooting two people at the M&M Market in Theodore in March.
When police arrested him last month at a Walmart store, they said he had a Glock that had been modified with one of the devices. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Mobile filed charges days later. This week, a federal grand jury formally indicted him on a charge of possession of a firearm not registered in the National Firearms Registration Transfer Record. The offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Acting U.S. Attorney Sean Costello said his office has not yet brought charges against other people related to Glock chips. But he said the investigations are active.
“We have some that have not been referred to our office yet,” he said. “But we have nine open right now – six out of Mobile, and we have others from Selma, Evergreen, Brewton. So, they’re everywhere in our district.”
Automatic weapons are tightly regulated and hard to find. But ATF officials said the Glock chip that allows the conversion is easy to order on the internet or even can be made with a 3D printer. The metal piece prevents the trigger from resetting, which means rather than having to squeeze it each time he fires a shot, a shooter can press it once and empty the clip.
One drawback – it’s very hard to control, even for a trained firearms expert. The ATF agent who demonstrated the device Thursday struggled to keep the gun aimed squarely at the target without the aim drifting upward.
“I don’t that they really understand the full, grave danger that’s involved in using these switches on these weapons,” Mobile police Chief Paul Prine said.
He added, “A law enforcement officer who’s trained to use that weapon cannot control that weapon, especially on a pistol. In the hands of a juvenile or a person that’s not trained, it’s even worse because you’re indiscriminately spraying rounds in the community.”
Prine said “more often than not,” innocent bystanders will get shot and killed. He added that it appears the proliferation of Glock chips is accelerating. He noted that police have confiscated eight of the devices over the last year.
“Of those eight, seven had been confiscated over the last six months,” he said.
At least five of those, Prine said, were involved in shootings. Fortunately, he added, no one has been hurt.
Paul Burch, chief investigator with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies have not yet encountered modified guns like police in the cities have. But he said it is only a matter of time since criminals do not obey jurisdictional boundaries. He echoed Prine’s comments about public safety.
“You can’t control the weapons when you’re firing off like that,” he said. “So there is a greater risk of hitting people other than their intended target.”
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