Operation Texas Kill Switch: Effort to get illegal devices off streets

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, announced a new effort on Monday to get illegal "machine gun conversion devices", also known as "switches" off Texas streets.

"I’m announcing the launch of Operation Texas Kill Switch," said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza.

"They possess the capability of turning semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic machine guns," said Robert Topper, ATF Special Agent in charge of the Houston Field Division.

The goals of Operation Kill Switch are to encourage state and local police to look out for switches, and to urge the public to report switches to police.

"As the problem continues to escalate, we are determined to do more," said Esparza.

The feds say they’ve seen a sharp increase in switches across Texas. Nine-hundred and ninety-one were seized in our state between 2017 and 2023, and 490 of those were seized last year alone. They’re often bought online, and can even be 3D-printed.

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"These devices have a particular appeal to young people who are exposed to them through social media posts and advertisements," said Topper.

Switches, made of either metal or plastic, slide into the back of a gun, and allow the shooter to fire dozens of rounds.

"You just pull the trigger once, and you unload that clip," said Esparza.

"These weapons are notoriously difficult to control," said Topper. "That brings a much greater risk to innocent bystanders whenever they're used."

Switches have been used in multiple deadly shootings, including the murder of a Houston police officer, and a deadly mass shooting at a Sweet 16 party in Alabama last year. Often, the guns themselves are stolen.

Crime Stoppers are offering up to $5,000 for information regarding switches or their production. That reward runs through August 31.

"We are very fearful of what will happen if we don't start addressing this problem," said Esparza.

Switches are banned under federal law in almost all cases. If you’re caught with one, you could face up to 10 years in prison.