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US authorities warn against converting legal pistols into submachine guns with 3D printers

Law enforcement authorities in the USA are sounding the alarm, according to media reports. Criminals are increasingly using 3D printers to convert legal handguns into a type of submachine gun. The focus is on tiny 3D-printed plastic parts known as “switches” or “auto sears”. Once installed in a gun, they allow the weapon to fire continuously.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), around 100 of these conversion kits can be produced within 72 hours using a standard 3D printer. The special agents have observed a massive increase: between 2017 and 2021, they confiscated 5,454 weapon conversion kits – an increase of 570 percent compared to 2012 to 2016.

“These one-inch plastic parts look as harmless as Lego bricks. But they turn legal firearms into weapons of war and petty criminals into brutal killers. We must not allow our streets to become war zones,” warned federal prosecutor Leigha Simonton at the launch of “Operation Texas Kill Switch”.

The switches convert semi-automatics into continuous fire – around 650 rounds per minute are possible with a converted pistol. More than the assault rifles of the US Army.

Some states are taking action: Texas now offers rewards for tips. New York and Maryland ban the sale of converted pistols. Chicago sued the gun manufacturer Glock because of its easily modifiable models.

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