ATF trains law enforcement agencies in the Houston area on the use of homemade weapons

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Amid an alarming rise in the number of untraceable dangerous “ghost weapons” in Houston, the ATF is stepping up training while enforcement struggles.

“Ghost weapons” are firearms without a serial number. Often they are a combination of actual gun parts and others printed on 3D printers at home. At the Houston Field Division office Tuesday afternoon, ATF Firearms Enforcement Officer Earl Griffith 13 Investigations showed how the printers can make firearm components, silencers, Glock switches and automatic sights that can turn a legal rifle into a machine gun.

13 studies recently revealed the proliferation of so-called Glock switches on the streets of Houston. someone was allegedly on the firearm that shot dead three Houston police officers.

“This particular device can be printed in about 40 minutes on this printer, which costs less than $200. The (design) files that you can download for free and this material to print, it looks like a weed killer string, costs about $23 for this whole spool. And you can probably print over a hundred of these devices with this spool,” Griffith explained.

Easy availability and low cost are just two of the reasons why the devices are becoming more and more popular. The Houston Forensic Science Center released figures Tuesday showing that the number of these devices entered into the firearms lab almost tripled in 2021.

In an interview surrounded by what the ATF calls “privately made firearms,” ​​Griffith explained that the criminal elements are eager to get the devices: “So you can outdo the other side like the Wild West. It used to be flintlocks and whatnot, but then when six shooters came along, everyone wanted a six shooter. But now everyone wants a machine gun conversion device to convert their Glock pistol into a machine gun.

The devices, almost always illegal to sell in the United States, can make guns far more dangerous.

“From a law enforcement perspective, if we stop someone for a reason and go to the car, now they can have a machine gun that they just fire right here, and you can fire like 33 rounds and 1.4 seconds,” Griffith explains. “For law enforcement, it’s almost like they’re being shot at because law enforcement doesn’t carry machine guns.”

Griffith is in town from Washington, DC to educate local law enforcement officers on what to look out for. He has conducted similar sessions in 30 other US cities, and in each, he says, officials said they didn’t realize what they were seeing until the practice. Some tell him that once they go back and check they can already find the devices in inventory.

Education is key to slowing the spread of the devices since the components used to manufacture them are unregulated and against the law.

“We do not regulate the printer. We don’t regulate files or materials, but once you’ve made this, it’s a prohibited item. It’s a machine gun… 3D printing is used for a lot of things, just like the internet, it can be good and bad.”

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Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. ATF trains law enforcement agencies in the Houston area on the use of homemade weapons

Dais Johnston

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