Shaheen & Group of Senators Introduce Legislation to Combat Increased Use of Dangerous Gun Conversion Devices

July 25, 2022

Legislation would help address gun violence epidemic by tackling proliferation of automatic gun conversion devices and seizing profits from illegal trafficking

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a group of Senators led by Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced legislation to combat the increased use and proliferation of dangerous gun conversion devices. The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act would help tackle the ongoing gun violence epidemic by requiring federal law enforcement to coordinate efforts to prevent the importation and trafficking of ‘auto-sears’ - and other illegal gun modification devices that can convert semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic weapons - and seize all profits that come from the illegal trafficking of these devices. 

“No child should fear going to school. No worshipper should fear going to services. And no family should fear that trips to the movie theater or grocery store may be fatal. Tragically, that is the reality in America today and it has to change. This new legislation is one important and common-sense step we can take to meaningfully address the epidemic of gun violence by preventing dangerous individuals from manipulating and modifying firearms into weapons of war,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad to help lead introduction of this bill and will reach across the aisle to find consensus on a proposal that balances the need for action to preserve our public safety, while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.”

The Preventing Illegal Weapons Trafficking Act of 2022 would: 

  • Direct the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of the Treasury to develop a coordinated national strategy to prevent or intercept the importation and trafficking of automatic gun conversion devices;
  • Ensure that proceeds from the illegal trafficking of automatic gun devices are subject to forfeiture; and 
  • Require that the Attorney General include data and information about illegal gun modification devices in the Justice Department’s annual firearms trafficking report.

Auto-sears and other gun conversion devices can be installed in about a minute, and 3-D printed or purchased online for less than $20. An investigation by The Trace and VICE News this March found that federal prosecutions involving gun conversion devices have increased over eight-fold from 2017-2021. Additionally, the investigation reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) seized 1,500 weapons modified with auto sears in 2021, a five-fold increase from the year before.

In addition to Shaheen, Klobuchar and Peters, the legislation is also sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation is endorsed by Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety. 

Shaheen is a strong advocate for gun violence prevention efforts. Earlier this month, she met with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and local gun violence awareness advocates to discuss policies aimed at curbing violence and the need for additional measures to keep communities safe. Shaheen has long pushed to expand federal background checks for all gun sales, close what is commonly referred to as the ‘boyfriend loophole’ and prevent convicted stalkers from buying guns. Shaheen also recently released a statement criticizing Governor Sununu and New Hampshire Republicans for their extreme bill – now law in New Hampshire – that prohibits the State from enforcing any federal statute, regulation or Executive Order related to measures to stem the epidemic of gun violence.

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