ATF: Number of confiscated illegal machine gun conversion devices jumped 570% over 5 years

Some of the devices, authorities say, have been reportedly made in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, there has been a nationwide uptick in the number of machine gun conversion devices being illegally sold on the streets — up more than 500% over a five years period.

ATF spokesperson Jason Medina says guns that have been converted to fully automatic weapons are being used by criminals all over the U.S. who are either buying the guns or the conversion device off the street.

“In the wrong hands, conversion devices pose an extraordinary threat to communities and have been increasingly used in gun crimes across the country,” Medina told News4JAX. “In the last five years, for instance, the number of illegal machine gun conversion devices that have been reported by law enforcement agencies have increased by an alarming 570%.”

The data, which the ATF says showed 814 of the devices were reportedly confiscated from 2012 to 2016, skyrocketed to 5,454 from 2017 to 2021.

“Over the years, it’s been bystanders that have continued to pay the price as violent criminals use these devices to make shootings more and more deadly,” Medina added.

Darnell Rice, 28, was sentenced in December after a conviction of selling a machine gun conversion device to an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The device converts a semiautomatic handgun into a fully automatic weapon.

The investigation into Rice revealed that he is not a federally licensed gun dealer, but he had been buying and selling firearms for profit and then advertising the guns for sale on social media. It’s unclear if any of the weapons he sold were already converted at the time of sale.

Rice is not the only person in Northeast Florida who was recently charged with illegally selling conversion devices. Kristopher Ervin of Orange Park has a federal trial coming up on charges of selling conversion devices online.

According to investigators, Ervin had the devices manufactured at a Jacksonville machine shop for $5 each but sold more than 1,300 of them for $139 each.

And the News4JAX ITEAM recently investigated Lucas Shirley, 27, who was indicted on charges of using a 3D printer to make fully automatic ghost guns and conversion devices to sell on the street. According to the ATF, he was selling thousands of dollars’ worth of homemade weapons and devices.

Medina says agents are seeing more and more of those conversion devices being produced by 3D printing machines.

“We always have an eye out for new technology and manufacturing trends such as 3D printing that could threaten public safety,” he said.

“Law enforcement is already an inherently dangerous profession,” Medina added. “And these conversion devices make it a little more dangerous because they give hardened criminals fully automatic firearm capabilities that pretty much rivals what is carried by the U.S. military.”

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