Vice turns its attention to auto sears

Vice turns its attention to auto sears
Don Petersen

In the aftermath of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the American public demanded action. As a result, machine guns were basically banned. You could still have one, of course, but you had to jump through a few hoops.

These days, it’s harder to get one legally after legislative moves in the 80s. However, as Vice recently wrote, with the help of auto sears, bad guys aren’t having a lot of difficulties getting that kind of firepower anymore.

The Mongolian Boys Society was out for revenge. Six members of the Fresno, California, criminal gang huddled in a vacation rental in November 2019, cleaning their guns in preparation to retaliate against the Asian Crips for the suspected killing of one of their own.

According to court records, one of the “triggermen” carried a Glock pistol outfitted with an auto sear, a small device the size of a thimble that transformed his semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun capable of firing 20 rounds per second. Around 8 p.m., the crew drove across town to a palm tree–lined street. Moments later, in one of the backyards, they opened fire on a gathering of people. Bullets sprayed through the crowd, killing four and wounding six.

But the house was not a rival gang’s den; police later determined the gathering was a family that had gotten together to watch football. Six members of the Mongolian Boys Society were arrested for their alleged involvement in the mass shooting. Three face the death penalty.

An auto sear—the most common automatic conversion device—transforms a semiautomatic gun into a weapon capable of emptying an entire magazine with a single pull of the trigger. Also known as switches or chips, auto sears have been around since the ’70s but are exceedingly tough to acquire legally in the United States, where machine guns cannot legally be owned without a special license. In recent years, these small metal or plastic devices have exploded in popularity on the black market and gained a particular cachet among criminals and anti-government extremists. Last year, members of the Boogaloo Bois, an accelerationist movement that hopes to spark a second civil war, used weapons equipped with auto sears to attack a federal courthouse.

In much of this, Vice is absolutely correct. They’re already tightly controlled from a legal standpoint, which means people aren’t able to just walk into a gun store and walk out with an auto sear.

So where are they coming from? I’ve pointed out before that they come from China, a nation that’s at once railing against the free access of firearms while at once doing nothing to stop feeding into it.

Well, amazingly, Vice does as well.

The ascent of the auto sear has been propelled by its availability and ease of use. The American market is largely supplied by China, where manufacturers sell the devices on websites such as Alibaba and directly to consumers, law enforcement officials say. Auto sears are often advertised as airsoft parts or tools and shipped with false documentation and packaging labels. They can also be created using a 3D printer. Once they’re in a person’s hands, installation can take just seconds and requires scant technical knowledge or tools.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Now, the fact that they can be produced by 3D printers is also true, and it’s why you’re never going to stop bad guys from getting auto sears.

The problem with this debate, however, is that these things are out there and they put the law-abiding citizens at a disadvantage. The laws banning such things were meant to keep criminals from getting full-auto weapons, yet now they’re just about the only ones who can get them.

It’s ridiculous, really, but that’s kind of how gun control works. It’s also why so many of us vehemently oppose it.

For what it’s worth, I applaud Vice for noting where most of the auto sears come from. A lot of people in the media would have glossed that over because of some weird fetish the left has with the country, but Vice went there and deserve credit for that if nothing else.

But nothing is going to change on this front. The laws are already in place and the bad guys are still getting them without any issue. That’s something we could have told you would happen.