KSLA INVESTIGATES: SPD says Glock switch is ‘most dangerous’ weapon on city’s streets right now
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - A Glock pistol rigged to fire like a machine gun... it’s a firearm that Shreveport Police calls the most dangerous weapon on the city’s streets right now.
On shooting scenes over the past two years, SPD says they’ve found evidence of the illegal weapon on a scale never seen before. SPD fears it’s only a matter of time before an innocent bystander gets seriously wounded or killed.
On a late Friday night in early October outside a Shreveport gas station, a hail of gunfire sent people screaming and running for cover. Two people, ages 17 and 20, were shot. Police said the weapon discharged was likely a Glock handgun modified to fire like a machine gun.
To fully grasp the danger a rigged weapon like this presents, one needs to get up close to see how it works. So, the Shreveport Police Department, and an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) gave KSLA a demonstration. Both men used a Glock handgun with a quarter-sized metal chip on the back.
Commonly known as a “switch,” this modification converts the world’s most popular handgun into a fully automatic machine gun.
During the demonstration, Corporal Bryan Boughton with SPD fired a 9mm Glock as fast as possible, emptying a 16-round magazine in 3.8 seconds. That’s fast. But when Cpl. Boughton and the ATF agent shot modified Glocks, both men fired 16 rounds in around one second.
Without the switch, one bullet is fired for every pull of the trigger, but modified, one squeeze of the trigger empties the full magazine.
“You put a lot of rounds down range in a short period of time,” said Cpl. Boughton.
The modification creates a highly inaccurate weapon.
“It’s hard to keep it on the intended target,” Cpl. Boughton said.
This poses a real risk to innocent bystanders when street criminals use the modified Glock in public.
“An inexperienced shooter, the muzzle is going to rise. So they’re not going to be able to control the muzzle, so you’re going to be hitting cars, buildings, schools, whatever is around or behind whatever they’re shooting at,” said Cpl. Boughton.
That nightmare scenario unfolded in Sacramento, Calif. back in April. Six people died, and 12 more were wounded in a mass shooting.
“We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy,” said Chief Katherine Lester with the Sacramento Police Department at the time of the incident.
Investigators say one of the shooters carried a Glock converted to fire like a machine gun.
“The real concern with the Glock switch is the ease of putting them on and taking them off of the firearm,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Carroll with the New Orleans ATF Field Office.
Carroll says this tiny device poses a unique and deadly danger.
“You know, with 25 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of machine guns,” Carroll said.
This tiny device is now hitting U.S. streets in record numbers. According to the ATF, in 2017, agents confiscated fewer than 100 Glock switches nationwide. In 2021, that number spiked to more than 1,500.
“And the problem that we’re seeing is that they are being used more and more in crimes. And it’s only a matter of time before somebody uses this in a highly populated area and a lot of people end up getting hurt or killed,” Carroll said.
On a federal level, the Glock switch is illegal in all 50 states.
“Just having that part is possession of an illegal machine gun that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison,” Carroll stated.
In Shreveport, police say evidence of the Glock switch is showing up at an alarming number of crime scenes.
“We began to see this around 2020,” said Corporal Chris Bordelon with SPD.
“A large amount of brass in one location,” said Cpl. Boughton.
Arguably, the modified Glock is the most dangerous weapon on the city’s streets today.
“These are top priority cases,” said Cpl. Boughton.
To combat this danger, Cpl. Bordelon says whenever SPD confiscates a Glock switch, detectives work with ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to build a federal case, ensuring the people responsible spend the most time possible behind bars.
“People are going to prison for these offenses,” Cpl. Bordelon said. “These are not law-abiding citizens that possess these weapons. These weapons are possessed with the intent of shooting at other citizens and other people, and we’re taking them very seriously.”
SPD prefers federal charges when it comes to the Glock switch for one simple reason: under the U.S. criminal code offers, there’s something called “sentence enhancements.” To put it simply, that means those responsible get more time in federal prison when caught.
The ATF agent involved in the demonstration for KSLA mentioned a 10-year prison sentence just for possessing a Glock switch; the device doesn’t even have to be attached to the weapon for that enhancement to apply. And someone who uses a Glock switch in a federal crime of violence or in a drug trafficking charge could face an additional 30 years.
While SPD officers are very aware of the Glock switch, some officers in rural police departments and some parish sheriff’s offices aren’t aware of the device like they are in the city.
So, the ATF is out on an educational campaign to help officers all across Louisiana recognize the Glock switch.
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