Harrowing bodycam footage released this week by the Houston Police Department depicts a suspect shooting at officers with what local media are calling a “mini machine gun.”
Officer William “Bill” Jeffrey and Sgt. Michael Vance were serving an arrest warrant to Deon Ledet last month when Ledet suddenly opened fire from inside his home in northeast Houston.
Both officers were hit. Officer Jeffrey would later succumb to his wounds. Sgt. Vance is still in recovery.
Ledet, who was fatally shot during the exchange, had an illegal auto switch on his pistol that greatly increased its rate of fire.
According to Fred Milanowski, the special agent in charge of Houston’s ATF division, Ledet was able to empty a 30-round magazine in 2.6 seconds.
Milanowski told KHOU11 that the use of auto switches amongst the criminal element has increased in recent months.
“ATF has had seven investigations in Houston arresting people, all of them selling auto switches. We seized about 104 of these auto switches and seized 11 guns that had auto switches already attached to them,” Milanowski said.
The auto switch devices allow for shooting 30 round magazine in 2.6 seconds.— Marcelino Benito (@MarcelinoKHOU) October 12, 2021
They are illegal. It turns handgun into a machine gun.
Police say it’s a threat to them and a threat to the public. #khou11 pic.twitter.com/Lekds0Q1XV
Machine guns are tightly regulated under the National Firearms Act. Generally speaking, federal law prohibits the possession of machine guns made after 1986. Included under the ATF’s definition of “machine gun” is “any part designed and intended solely and exclusively… for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun.”
Auto switches are, by definition, machine guns. Violators face up to 10 years in prison for possession of an auto switch.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his department has also encountered auto switches in the streets, including finding one on a convicted felon back in March who was pulled over for reckless driving.
“This is scary and dangerous stuff and these are showing up in the hands of very bad people so we need to continue to take a strong stand, whatever it takes, to protect our law enforcement officers and our community and we will do just that,” he said.
From a regulatory standpoint, there’s not much else that can be done about auto switches. They’re already prohibited. Which goes to show the limitations of gun control. Outlaws don’t care if the weapon they possess is outlawed, they’re still going to use it.
Perhaps, the best way to tackle this problem is for Houston-area prosecutors to start throwing the book at any violent offender or felon caught with an auto switch. Putting bad guys behind bars for a decade not only improves public safety but it sends a strong message to other criminals that maybe it’s time to rethink their profession.