World

This $20 Device Turns a Handgun Into an Automatic Weapon

For $20, a device called an auto sear can turn a handgun into a machine gun.

Last year, U.S. officials seized 1,500 guns with auto sears — and experts suggest they account for a small fraction of the total that exist. A shooting that killed six people in Sacramento in April involved at least one gun that had been modified with an auto sear, lawmakers said.
Inspector Courtney Nilan of the New York City Police Department says the devices pose an increasingly worrisome problem.
“An auto sear is a small device made of metal or plastic that can make any handgun a fully automatic weapon. With one pull of the trigger, that gun can shoot 16 rounds.”
“It’s a workaround for people who cannot obtain an AR or an AK legally. They don’t give them to police officers for a reason. They are illegal at the city, state and federal levels.”
“Two years ago, during one of our investigations, an individual had auto sears at his location, in addition to a cache of personally made firearms, or ghost guns. It looked to me like a very small Lego piece – a small square piece with a few holes in it – not much bigger than a quarter.”
“The ones that are commercially manufactured are primarily manufactured in China and sent to the United States through different international websites. And people are now 3D printing them, too.”
“A lot of people on the street or in online forums call auto sears Glock switches. (But Glock switches have nothing to do with the Glock company; that’s really a misnomer.)”
“Generally, if you’re buying them commercially on eBay or on the dark web, they go for about $20. But for people who are 3D printing them, it basically costs about a dollar to produce one.”
“It popped up on our radar because this is how ghost guns started. They started in dribs and drabs and then came on like wildfire.”
“Usually the production of ghost guns goes hand in hand with owning and producing auto sears. I think the scariest thing about guns is how many are out there and all of the different methods for people to come into possession of them.”
“In New York City, from where we were last year to where we are now, we have a little over a 200% increase in ghost guns.“
“There is no difference between a bullet shot from a commercially made firearm and a ghost gun. Same bullets. Just as deadly.”

Julia Rothman is an illustrator. Shaina Feinberg is a writer and filmmaker. Both live in Brooklyn.

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