NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is seeing pistols in the New Orleans area that have been illegally converted into hand-held machine guns.

The ATFE Special Agent in Charge in New Orleans, Kurt Thielhorn, told WGNO News about the devices that are used to convert the pistols during the burreau’s first Citizens Academy.

“We have recovered them here in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes since the beginning of the new year. They’re out there,” Thielhorn told WGNO News.

Thielhorn says the item, known as a ‘switch,’ is shipped into the U.S. and can also be made with some 3D printers.

‘It’s a very high threat to law enforcement out there right now,” he said.

So far, the converted pistols have not been used in any high-profile crimes, Thielhorn said. But if they become more common, that could change.

“The more we see, the greater likelihood they’ll be used in a tragic incident,” Thielhorn predicts.

For more on what the converted pistols can do, and to see a firing demonstration from a federal agent, click on the video at the top of this story.