At least one of the guns recovered from the scene of the Sacramento shooting that left six dead was modified with an “auto-sear” or “switch” to boost drastically its rate of fire, reports the Los Angeles Times. The conversion devices, which allow a semiautomatic weapon that fires one bullet with each pull of a trigger to fire fully automatically with one pull of the trigger, are illegal but are becoming increasingly common in the U.S. The devices are classified as machine guns by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and possession of one is a federal offense.
Policing the devices is difficult, as they are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online or made with a 3D printer. Instructions for installing a switch on a gun can be found online and require little to no technical expertise. ATF seized about 1,500 weapons modified with switches in 2021, compared with only 300 in 2020. The recovery of the modified weapon confirmed suspicions that an automatic weapon had been used. Social media videos of the shooting contained audio of guns firing at a rapid pace. The police suspect that the motive for the killings was gang violence. Adding so much firepower onto a weapon not designed for it makes it difficult to shoot accurately, increasing the likelihood that bystanders or other unintended targets could be shot as bullets spray in many directions. “It’s kind of like a ‘spray and pray,’” said Det. Pat Hoffman of the Los Angeles Police Department’s gun unit,