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ATF issues warning on rise of ‘machine gun conversion devices’

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has sounded the alarm regarding the proliferation of illegal devices designed to enhance the lethality of pistols, particularly in New York state.

John DeVito, the special agent in charge of New York State, delivered the warning at the Islip Rifle Range on Long Island, emphasizing the ease of access to these “machine gun conversion devices” through online platforms and international shipments, notably from China.

These conversion devices, commonly referred to as chips or switches, are increasingly prevalent and come in various materials, including metal and plastic. The plastic variants are particularly concerning as they can be manufactured using 3D printers, sometimes within private residences. The ATF’s collaboration with law enforcement agencies like the NYPD aims to trace the origin of firearms and ammunition used in criminal activities to mitigate gun violence.

DeVito underscored the adaptability of criminal elements in exploiting innovative methods to endanger public safety, emphasizing the imperative for law enforcement and policymakers to evolve rapidly. The ease with which these devices can transform rifles into machine guns poses a significant threat, especially in urban environments like New York City, where 93% of gun crimes involve illegally trafficked firearms, primarily sourced from states like Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the proliferation of machine gun conversion devices, law enforcement faces challenges posed by “ghost guns,” assembled from untraceable parts, often constructed from plastic. Tragically, teenagers frequently find themselves involved as both perpetrators and victims of gun violence, as evidenced by recent incidents such as the fatal shooting on a Bronx subway train and the indiscriminate gunfire at a Super Bowl victory parade in Kansas City.

Despite efforts to curb illegal firearms, the ATF acknowledges the daunting reality of approximately 500 million guns circulating in the United States, with nearly 150 million manufactured within the past decade. Addressing gun violence requires a comprehensive approach involving government agencies and community stakeholders, as emphasized by Thomas Kalogiros, ATF assistant special agent in charge, recognizing that it transcends law enforcement alone and demands collective action at all levels.

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