Legislation would help address gun violence epidemic by tackling proliferation of machine gun conversion devices and seizing profits from illegal weapons 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, and 15 of their colleagues reintroduced 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 House of Representatives is led by Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Sean Casten (D-IL).

“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 that can be easily 3-D printed or cheaply purchased online 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.”

“Law enforcement must do more to protect our communities from gun violence by stopping the flow of illegal gun modification devices into and throughout our country,” said Peters. “This bill will enhance coordination across law enforcement agencies to prevent these dangerous and deadly devices from being used.”

“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. I want to thank Senator Klobuchar for her leadership on this issue.”

“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 accessible. This bill will prevent the importation and trafficking of these dangerous modifications.”

The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padllia (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

"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.

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 last year. 

In February, Klobuchar and Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced updated bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen provisions closing the ‘boyfriend loophole.’ The Strengthening Protections for Domestic Violence and Stalking Survivors Act prevents convicted stalkers and all former dating partners convicted of a domestic violence offense  from buying or owning firearms, regardless of when the relationship occurred.