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Machinegun Conversion Devices Addressed Through "Operation Texas Kill Switch"  

 Posted on July 08, 2024 in Criminal Defense

Tarrant County Gun Possession LawyerIn early June 2024, U.S. Attorneys across the state of Texas announced an initiative that targets conversion devices known as "switches." The name of the initiative is "Operation Texas Kill Switch," as it concerns switches which are an inch or less in size, fit into the butt of a gun, and are fabricated out of plastic or metal. The device is manufactured by using 3D printers.  

Switches can turn readily available firearms into fully automatic weapons that can fire faster than military-grade weapons. One pull of the trigger releases dozens of rounds of ammunition in contrast to a semi-automatic weapon that requires the user to pull the trigger each time a round is fired. Switches are often used in mass shootings and are illegal except in very narrowly defined circumstances.

If you have been charged with possession of a switch, you may be facing federal or state penalties and could benefit from having an experienced Fort Worth weapons violation lawyer by your side. An experienced lawyer from The Dameron Law Firm will make sure your defense affords you the best chance for a positive outcome.

What is Operation Texas Kill Switch? 

While the ultimate goal is to remove switches from the streets, the initiative is also intended to raise public awareness regarding these devices and prompt the public to report them to their local law enforcement. Nine hundred and ninety-one switches were seized by agents from the Texas Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the six years from 2017 to 2023. Half of those were seized in 2023.

Local crime stopper programs are offering rewards for any information that leads to the apprehension of those possessing switches or the printers that manufacture the devices. The federal penalty for possession of a switch is up to ten years in federal prison.

What Are the Current Texas Laws Regarding Machineguns?

Under Texas Penal Code Title 10, Chapter 46, intentionally or knowingly possessing, manufacturing, selling, repairing, or transporting a machine gun is prohibited. A machine gun is defined as "any firearm that is capable of shooting more than two shots automatically without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger." The only defense to prosecution for possession of a machine gun is when the weapon is properly registered under federal law.

Federal law dictates that machine guns must be registered with the ATF and generally prohibits the transfer or possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. The state of Texas prohibits the sale of fully automatic weapons—or any device that turns a firearm into an automatic weapon—with the one exception listed above.

Potential Penalties for Possessing a Machine Gun or Switch and the Opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court

If you are found in possession of a machine gun or a "switch" that turns a firearm into a machine gun, you will be charged with a third-degree felony in the state of Texas. In Texas, the penalties for a conviction of a third-degree felony include from two to ten years in prison and a fine as large as $10,000.

It is worth noting that Texas laws concerning bump stocks and switches could change quickly.  On June 14, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on bump stocks. Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion stating that a bump stock is no more effective than a "shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger."

Many police officers find Glock "switches" to be one of the greatest threats law enforcement faces. Despite this, Operation Texas Kill Switch could face Supreme Court challenges under the same premise (unconstitutionality) as bump stocks.  

Contact a Tarrant County, TX Criminal Defense Lawyer

While the laws surrounding switches and bump stocks can change quickly, you should always take Texas illegal weapons charges seriously. Your experienced attorney from The Dameron Law Firm will work hard on your behalf to have your charges reduced or dismissed entirely if misconduct on the part of the police or violations of your rights occurred.  A Fort Worth, TX criminal defense attorney can prepare a solid defense that will give you the best chance of a positive outcome for your charges. Contact The Dameron Law Firm at 817-222-0624 for a free comprehensive consultation. 

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