Illegal automatic handgun switches found in Chatham Co.

Published: Sep. 7, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Illegal switches that make a semi-automatic gun into an automatic are being found in Chatham County.

The Savannah field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is sounding the alarm about these devices in our community.

The ATF special agent WTOC spoke with says they’re either coming here from overseas, or they’re being manufactured right here in the states using 3-D printers.

The switches, which are illegal across the country, attach to handguns, making them automatic weapons that can fire up to 40 rounds in a matter of two seconds and wreak havoc in the community.

“Accuracy is extremely difficult. The rounds, the bullets are haphazardly shooting in multiple directions, and it’s hard to keep the weapon on target. So you can see how it would be a problem for law enforcement, obviously, but it’s a problem public safety-wise with criminals that are taking out everybody except the people that they’re trying to go after,” Matthew Beccio said.

And ATF Special Agent Matthew Beccio says those switches aren’t hard to get.

“It’s quite easy, actually.”

Special Agent Beccio says the automatic switches found locally are largely coming from overseas, and at this point, not much can be done to restrict those imports.

“We haven’t made many strides in terms of getting the kind of assistance that we need overseas.”

Beccio says since they can’t get to the people making the devices, agencies like the ATF are turning their focus on disrupting those who sell them on local streets.

“We have had, in my discussions with law enforcement here across the county, we’ve had multiple encounters not only with Savannah PD, but with jurisdictions in the county as well.”