May 01, 2023

Casten, Spanberger Introduce Legislation to Combat Use of Dangerous Gun Modifications

Washington, D.C. (Monday, May 1st) - Today, Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) and Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) introduced legislation to combat the increased use and proliferation of dangerous gun conversion devices. The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act would help tackle the ongoing gun violence epidemic by requiring federal law enforcement to coordinate efforts to prevent the importation and trafficking of ‘auto-sears’ - illegal gun modification devices that can convert semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic weapons - and seize all profits that come from the illegal trafficking of these devices. Companion legislation in the Senate is led by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Gary Peters (D-MI). 

“Our communities deserve to be safer from gun violence,” said Casten. “This epidemic needs to be addressed head on and that includes the proliferation of illegal gun conversion. Any device that allows a semi-automatic weapon to convert into a fully automatic weapon should not be easily accessible. The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act will prevent the importation and trafficking of these dangerous modifications.”

“As a former federal law enforcement officer who carried a gun for my job every day, I understand the very real threat of criminals modifying firearms to inflict as much damage as possible. And as a legislator and parent, I’m focused on doing more to keep our communities, our first responders, and our children safe from gun violence,” said Spanberger. “This legislation would crack down on glock switches, which are illegal devices that turn a handgun into a machine gun and significantly increase lethality. By providing law enforcement with the tools they need to stop criminals and gun traffickers, this bill would reduce the dangers posed by auto-sears.”

"As communities across the country suffer unprecedented levels of gun violence, it is critical that Congress take swift action to address the proliferation of auto sears and other machine gun conversion devices. These small devices are capable of grave damage and destruction and are being recovered by local, state, and federal law enforcement from crime scenes at alarming rates. When used with a semiautomatic firearm, conversion devices enable shooters to replicate machine gun fire, making them a deadly threat to public safety and law enforcement. We applaud Senators Klobuchar and Peters, as well as Representatives Spanberger and Casten for their leadership and introducing the Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act," said Adzi Vokhiwa, GIFFORDS Federal Affairs Director.

The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act of 2023 would: 

  • Direct the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of the Treasury to develop a coordinated national strategy to prevent or intercept the importation and trafficking of automatic gun conversion devices;

  • Ensure that proceeds from the illegal trafficking of automatic gun devices are subject to forfeiture; and 

  • Require that the Attorney General include data and information about illegal gun modification devices in the Justice Department’s annual firearms trafficking report.

Auto-sears and other gun conversion devices can be installed in about a minute, and 3-D printed or purchased online for less than $20. An investigation by The Trace and VICE News last year found that federal prosecutions involving gun conversion devices have increased over eight-fold from 2017-2021. Additionally the investigation reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seized 1,500 weapons modified with auto sears in 2021, a five-fold increase from the year before.