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SLIDELL, La. (WGNO) — Investigators have seen more of a small switch that turns handguns into full-automatic machine guns.

It’s called a machine gun conversion device but its street name is “the switch.” Agents with the New Orleans Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) said the device gives handguns the ability to shoot 1,100 rounds per minute.

“In Houston, they’ve seen a lot of recoveries there,” ATF Special Agent Tony Pierce said. “It seems like it’s making its way in this direction.”

The switches travel illegally in two ways. They can either be 3D printed or shipped overseas.

“If not daily, every week, we see them coming in out of Asia,” Assistant Area Port Director for the Port Authority of Memphis Benjamin Canfield said. “It’s something our officers know to be on the lookout for.”

It wasn’t just the quick spread of the piece that concerned law enforcement. It was the people that ultimately end up handling the guns.

“You lose a lot of your accuracy because you’re not able to maintain a good grip on the gun. Your fundamentals break down,” Agent Pierce said. “People on the street don’t normally have good fundamentals. So, a lot of times you’ll see them shooting with one hand. So, to try to manage a weapon with a switch with one hand would be nearly impossible. You might get one round on target but the rest are gonna go all over.”

When the switch is used in a crime, the amount of time behind bars increases significantly, according to ATF Assistant Special Agent in charge Tim Carroll.

“If that is used in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or a federal crime of violence, such as carjacking, it is an automatic sentence enhancement of 30 years,” Carroll said.

Officials warned purchasing one of these switches can land a person in big trouble.

“If it’s something you’re trying to order online that seems like it would be fun, there’s a reason for that,” Canfield said. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

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