Skip to main content
Press Release

Texas U.S. Attorney’s announce “Operation Texas Kill Switch” aimed at machinegun conversion devices

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas
Crime Stopper programs to offer rewards for switches

BEAUMONT, Texas – Today, U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas announced “Operation Texas Kill Switch,” a statewide initiative targeting illegal machinegun conversion devices, commonly known as “switches.”

At simultaneous press conferences throughout the state, U.S. Attorneys Damien M. Diggs, Leigha Simonton, Alamdar Hamdani, and Jaime Esparza, joined by Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Special Agents in Charge Jeffrey Boshek and Michael Weddel, lambasted switches, which transform commercially available firearms into fully automatic weapons capable of firing faster than military-grade M4s.

“Machinegun conversion devices are incredibly dangerous and pose an unacceptable risk to the public and law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Damien M. Diggs.  “They’re also illegal and simply possessing a machinegun conversion device—let alone firing one—comes along with a hefty prison sentence.  As U.S. Attorney, I am committed to keeping them off the streets of the Eastern District of Texas.”

“Today’s important initiative is aimed at raising awareness of illegal machinegun conversation devices also known as ‘switches,’ said ATF Houston SAC Michael Weddel.  “Today’s threat comes from machinegun conversion devices that easily convert a firearm into a machinegun.  These ‘switches’ as they are often called on the streets, not only pose a serious threat to those living in our communities but a unique and deadly threat to law enforcement. Simply possessing one of these devices is a federal crime and we will work endlessly in conjunction with our United States Attorney’s Office in addition to our local, state, and federal partners to identify and prosecute these crimes.”  

About an inch long, switches may be made of metal or plastic and can be printed on commercially available 3D printers. They generally slot into the butt of a gun and allow the shooter to fire “full auto,” unloading dozens of rounds with a single pull of the trigger. (In contrast, regular semi-automatic firearms require a separate trigger pull for each round fired.)  To date, switches have been used in numerous fatal shootings, including at least one juvenile mass shooting and multiple police killings.

Except in very limited circumstances, possession of a switch is illegal, as the National Firearms Act classifies the switch itself as a machinegun.

Yet the number of switches recovered by law enforcement has risen dramatically in the past few years. Between 2017 and 2023, Texas-based ATF agents seized 991 switches; 490 of those, 50 percent, were seized just last year. They are often sold over social media, marketed to adults and juveniles alike.

At Monday’s press conferences, the U.S. Attorneys announced that as part of Operation Texas Kill Switch, they are partnering with Crime Stopper programs statewide to combat the proliferation of these illegal devices.

From now until Aug. 31, local Crime Stopper programs will offer cash rewards for information leading to the apprehension or prosecution of those who possess switches or 3D printers being used to manufacture them. To be eligible for cash rewards, tipsters must provide information to their local Crime Stoppers program. Tipsters may also use **TIPS to be connected to a Crime Stoppers program in their area. Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, and anonymity is guaranteed by law. Information may also be submitted directly to ATF at www.atf.gov/contact/atf-tips.

U.S. Attorneys Diggs, Simonton, Hamdani, and Esparza also urged local law enforcement to partner with federal authorities on switch cases, which carry maximum sentences of up to 10 years in the federal system. They laid out their case in a joint op-ed published Monday in the Austin American Statesman, which you can read here.

###

Updated June 10, 2024

Topics
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Firearms Offenses