Police in Tuscaloosa have partnered with federal agencies to identify, indict and arrest people using illegal modifications to turn ordinary semiautomatic handguns into fully automatic machine pistols.

TPD Chief Brent Blankley joined U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona, and Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to announce the success of their operation Tuesday.

These devices, commonly referred to as "Glock switches" are illegal, aftermarket parts not manufactured by the Austrian firearms manufacturer. They alter the entire firing mechanism of otherwise normal handguns meant to fire a single shot per pull of the trigger so that entire magazines can be "dumped" with one trigger pull.

"Glock switches are not legally possessed by anyone - it's not a situation where you could purchase it from a federal firearms license holder or a gun store," Escalona said. "These are illegal for anyone to possess, even if you can legally possess a regular firearm, you cannot possess a 'Glock switch.'"

They can be purchased illegally, and modern technology even allows some switches to be 3D printed by those with access to the right tools and schematics.

With most standard Glock magazines holding more than a dozen rounds and extended options available to push that number even higher, these "Glock switches" can extremely common firearms into inaccurate machine guns spraying bullets like water from a hose.

"Nationwide, Glock switch machine gun conversion devices proliferated through a number of means through criminal hands and turn a semiautomatic handgun into a deadly lethal machine gun," Watson said. "In the hands of a trained shooter, it's very difficult to operate. In the hands of a criminal, it just qreaks havoc on innocent people in the community."

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The trio said a three-month joint operation to combat the spread and use of these devices led to nine February indictments against individuals, seven of whom were allegedly in possession of Glock Switches and two of whom were charged with participating in the straw purchase of firearms.

Four of "some of the worst of the worst criminals" who were indicted were arrested Wednesday morning by federal agents and local police SWAT teams.

“Possession of a ‘Glock switch’ by an individual is a threat to the peace and safety of our communities. Our hope is that these arrests and continuing enforcement efforts across North Alabama will have a deterrent effect,” Escalona said. “Our ongoing collaboration with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners is instrumental in reducing violent crime and removing illegal firearms from our communities.”

“This operation demonstrates the effectiveness of working together to confront a growing threat to public safety,” said Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley. “Combining resources to enforce and prosecute offenders is the most effective way to stop the threat before it becomes more widespread. These partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies will strengthen our efforts to remove dangerous firearms from our community.”

The trio said the use of a Glock switch makes an already deadly firearm impossible for a civilian to accurately control and significantly increases the likelihood of unintended victims when shots are fired.

(Tuscaloosa Police Department)
(Tuscaloosa Police Department)

They asked the public to be vigilant, and said people who own and use the devices are usually not subtle about it - they might brag, or upload pictures or videos of their switches.

"A lot of times, these guns are in juveniles' hands or very young adults. I always stress with parents, go through your kids' rooms," Chief Blankley said. "If they've got a gun, I don't care if its got a Glock switch or not, give us a call. Parents today need to be parents. If your kid has a gun, they have no business with it."

Top Stories from the Tuscaloosa Thread (2/26 - 3/4)

10 of the Top Stories published by the Tuscaloosa Thread during the eighth week of 2024 and the end of February.

Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

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