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Feds crack down on cheap parts online that illegally turn pistols into machine guns

Police in various states say they are increasingly finding the selector switches on handguns.
Federal authorities are cracking down on people nationwide who are possessing a small and inexpensive device — typically available online from China — that can turn an ordinary pistol like the one pictured into a dangerous and illegal machine gun.
Federal authorities are cracking down on people nationwide who are possessing a small and inexpensive device — typically available online from China — that can turn an ordinary pistol like the one pictured into a dangerous and illegal machine gun.
Published Feb. 18

DALLAS — At least three North Texans are among multiple people nationwide who are accused of possessing a small and inexpensive device — typically available online from China — that can turn an ordinary pistol into a dangerous and illegal machine gun, according to federal court records.

When Karo Khudanyan, 24, was pulled over in Arlington for speeding in May, police found that his Glock 19 handgun had been altered to become fully automatic, allowing for continuous fire with a single pull of the trigger, according to a federal complaint. The pistol also had a high-capacity magazine with 22 rounds, the complaint said.

Khudanyan, of Grand Prairie, said he bought the “converter switch,” which attaches to the rear of the pistol, from a Chinese website, court records show. He pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Worth to a charge of possession of an unregistered firearm and is awaiting sentencing.

His attorney could not be reached for comment. Khudanyan has previous convictions in state court for reckless discharge of a firearm and marijuana possession, court records show.

Police in various states say they are increasingly finding the selector switches on handguns. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives believes thousands of the devices have been imported into the U.S. from China and in many cases are winding up in the hands of felons and other criminals.

An ATF spokesman told CNN in 2019 that getting them off the streets was a “high priority.” The devices, which are not manufactured by Glock, typically cost under $100 each and are shipped from China, often mislabeled as something else.

The switches are similar to what “bump stocks” can do for rifles. Bump stocks became illegal in 2019 after the Justice Department amended federal regulations clarifying that they fall within the legal definition of a machine gun.

The National Firearms Act generally prohibits civilians from owning machine guns, which can “shoot more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” A federal permit and registration are required to own a machine gun made prior to 1986. With a semi-automatic gun, each trigger pull fires a bullet.

Ramon Navarro III, 22, of Dallas, recently agreed to plead guilty to several counts of possessing an unregistered firearm and drug charges after he was found with multiple illegal machine guns as well as heroin and cocaine, according to court records.

Navarro had at least six Glock pistols with the illegal attached conversion device, court records show. He was arrested after an undercover ATF agent in July 2019 arranged to purchase three altered Glock pistols from him for $4,400, prosecutors say.

All of the conversion devices “lacked serial numbers and were of unknown origin,” according to prosecutors. His attorney could not be reached. Navarro was on probation at the time for aggravated robbery, court records show.

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Erin Nealy Cox, who was U.S. attorney at the time, said reducing gun violence was one of the Justice Department’s highest priorities and that Navarro had “attempted to circumvent” U.S. gun laws by illegally converting the handguns.

“Machine guns have no place on the streets of Dallas,” she said in a statement.

Jordyn Johnson, 24, is also charged in North Texas with having a Glock that was converted into a machine gun, court records show.

The Dallas man possessed the illegal weapon in October in Collin County, records show. He has not yet made a court appearance, according to court records. He is charged with receipt of firearms by a person under indictment, possession of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm, records show.

A defense attorney has not yet been assigned to Johnson, who was on probation at the time for state drug charges, court records show.

Another case involved a Las Vegas man who used a 3D printer to make the Glock conversion switches, according to federal authorities.

Justin Pham, 30, made his first appearance in a Nevada federal court in September 2020 on one count of illegal possession of a machine gun and two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm. The indictment said he possessed three Glock semi-automatic firearms that he had modified to fire as fully automatic weapons.

Police had received an anonymous tip that Pham was planning to use the converted firearms in a mass shooting, court records say. Authorities told a judge in October 2020 that Pham had died in custody. No details were provided.

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