Legislation would help address gun violence epidemic by tackling proliferation of automatic gun conversion devices and seizing profits from illegal trafficking
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are introducing legislation to combat the increased use and proliferation of dangerous gun conversion devices with nine of their colleagues. 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’ - and other 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.
“As we work to tackle the gun violence epidemic that is plaguing our country, we must address the alarming prevalence of gun conversion devices that can turn ordinary hand guns into automatic weapons. These devices can be easily 3-D printed or cheaply purchased online, but can have devastating consequences for public safety,” said Klobuchar. “By preventing the importation and trafficking of these deadly devices and by stopping traffickers from profiting from illegal sales, this legislation will help keep our communities safe and save lives.”
“Gun violence is an epidemic and lawmakers must do all we can to combat this horrific threat – including by stopping the flow of illegal gun modification devices into our country,” said Peters. “This bill will help improve federal law enforcement coordination, including with state and local partners, to prevent these illegal devices from being used to harm our communities.”
The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act of 2022 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 this March 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 .
In addition to Klobuchar and Peters, the legislation is also sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation is endorsed by Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety.
“This measure will crack down on dangerous firearm modification devices that threaten public safety,” said Blumenthal. “Access to cheap, easy to use conversion tools allows common firearms to be turned into fully-automatic weapons of war. Our legislation will prevent trafficking and seize the profits of wrongdoers intent on causing harm – key efforts needed to address our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”
“This bill targets gun conversion devices that, after installation, enable semi-automatic firearms to fire fully-automatically. These weapons are being sold to and used by individuals who are likely to use them for criminal activity and the law needs to evolve with technology to put a stop to it before our streets are flooded with weapons of war,” said Reed.
“We have got to crack down on the illegal trafficking of these deadly conversion devices, which turn handguns into full-fledged weapons of war,” said Markey. “This legislation is a critical part of our ongoing legislative effort to save lives by addressing the gun violence epidemic head-on.”
“No child should fear going to school. No worshipper should fear going to services. And no family should fear that trips to the movie theater or grocery store may be fatal. Tragically, that is the reality in America today and it has to change. This new legislation is one important and common-sense step we can take to meaningfully address the epidemic of gun violence by preventing dangerous individuals from manipulating and modifying firearms into weapons of war,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad to help lead introduction of this bill and will reach across the aisle to find consensus on a proposal that balances the need for action to preserve our public safety, while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.”
“Meaningful gun violence prevention must include a plan to combat the rise of illegal gun conversion devices,” said Padilla. “These deadly devices turn ordinary handguns into lethal weapons of war, threatening the safety of our communities. We must do more to prevent the importation and trafficking of these dangerous modifications.”
“No other country in the world experiences gun violence like we do here in the United States,” said Smith. “This bill will crack down on gun modification devices that can convert semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic weapons. We need to pass more common-sense gun safety measures like this, which will make us all safer and save lives.”
“The ease with which a semi-automatic weapon can become a fully-automatic weapon of mass murder is sickening. Period. Full stop,” Wyden said. “Congress must urgently tackle the proliferation of illegal gun conversion devices head on to keep our communities safe and put an end to America’s gun violence epidemic. The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act will save lives and I’m proud to support it.”
"As communities across the country are suffering unprecedented levels of gun violence, it is critical that Congress take swift action to address the proliferation of autosears and other conversion devices. These small devices are capable of grave damage and destruction. When used with a semiautomatic firearm, conversion devices enable shooters to replicate machine gun fire, making them a deadly threat to public safety. We applaud Senator Klobuchar for her leadership and unwavering commitment to ending gun violence," said Adzi Vokhiwa, Giffords Federal Affairs Director.
Klobuchar has long led efforts to prevent gun violence. Provisions from her bill with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) to close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and prevent abusive dating partners from buying or owning firearms were included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed into law by President Biden earlier this month.
Last November, Klobuchar and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) urged the Department of Justice to address the use and proliferation of “auto-sears” and other dangerous firearm devices, calling on the Department to work with state and local law enforcement to tackle the issue.