INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion Prosecutor has 101 machine gun conversion criminal cases pending.
A ruling this week by the Indiana Court of Appeals, combined with a new state law, just improved the odds of police filing those charges and prosecutors winning those cases.
“The new law makes it crystal clear that these things are prohibited, they are illegal and if you’re in possession of one, it’s a level five felony,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears. “To be able to concretely tell people in the community, ‘These are absolutely illegal. Lets build search warrants. Lets build cases so we can get these devices off the streets,’ is gonna be really important for us moving forward.”
The Court of Appeals ruled against Devun York, 19, who was arrested by IMPD in January of last year and charged with possession of a machine gun.
Investigators found that York’s 9mm Glock handgun had a so-called “switch” attached that would convert the weapon to fully automatic use.
York appealed the charge, claiming that if the switch was removed, the firearm would no longer qualify as a machine gun.
The Appeals Court disagreed.
“The gun either fires more than one shot automatically without reloading, or it does not,” the Court found. “The gun was a machine gun.”
York’s trial on the criminal charge is pending.
Late last month, Governor Holcomb signed into law a bill that determined a switch, or auto sear, device was illegal whether it was attached to a weapon or not.
“That’s a significant tool that we can use because it is a level five felony and it’s an enhanced penalty from your typical gun charge,” said Mears.
Crime gun investigators with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are finding more illegally altered firearms that are quite often in the hands of minors.
“In 2022, we got 65 Glock switches or conversion devices,” said IMPD Lt. Ron Brezik of the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force, referring to the common name for the switches, although the Glock Corporation neither manufactures the devices nor endorses their use.
“And that was just our task force,” Lt. Brezik continued. “So far this year, the first four months of this year we have 18 that we’ve confiscated off of guns or either people in possession of them.”
Lt. Brezik said a certain, younger population is responsible for the majority of such devices.
“The majority of the people are the younger people because they are fascinated with new improved quicker social media hits and just the technology being used with 3D printing,” said Brezik, whose detectives often find the devices for sale on the internet.
“The barrier to entry is so low because a 3D printer is so inexpensive and it’s an easy way for people to make money,” Brezik said. “That’s a really good combination for young people to become involved in something. I don’t think they necessarily or fully appreciate what they’re doing and the impact they could have on the community.”
IMPD detectives say Caden Smith was 17 years old in October of 2021 when, on two consecutive nights, he convinced friends to join him in a secluded area on the south side of Indianapolis to show off his converted handgun but then turned the weapon on the other young people, taking three lives.
His murder trial is pending.
“What we always tell people is, you don’t use something like that to fix your refrigerator,” said Brezik. “It’s used for one purpose and that is to convert a handgun into a fully automatic handgun.”