Handguns and rifles that have been modified into fully automatic weapons that can fire up to 1,200 rounds per minute have been involved in a string of Minneapolis shootings and have been showing up at more crime scenes, authorities say.
Police data show the city’s ShotSpotter network has recorded 78 automatic gunfire activations of 935 total rounds, compared with five such activations of 42 rounds at this time last year, the Star Tribune reported. The increased firepower comes as the city is closing in on last year’s record of 551 gunshot victims.
Quantrell Urman, founder of the street outreach group Turf Politics, said he consistently hears automatic gunfire while making his rounds.
“They’re out there a lot,” he said. “They’re everywhere.”
It’s not clear how many converted weapons are on city streets, but authorities have been tracking incidents involving them, said Jeffrey Reed, the assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in St. Paul.
Regular semi-automatic guns fire one round each time a trigger is pulled, but an automatic gun will shoot continuously until the trigger is released. Converting a gun into an automatic weapon involves illegal devices commonly known as “Glock switches” or “auto-sears,” which are available online or can be made on 3D printers.
recent shootings in Minneapolis show how prevalent the devices are. In August, ShotSpotter detected 27 rounds of automatic gunfire at a gas station shooting that left one man dead. Also in August, police said a modified fully automatic pistol was used in a shootout on a busy Uptown street in which more than 100 shots were fired and seven people were wounded. Earlier this year, two men were injured when automatic gunfire broke out during a house party.
Shane Hallow, president of the Hennepin County Association of Paramedics and EMTs, the union that represents Hennepin EMS medics and dispatchers, said that with automatic weapons, it’s more likely a victim will be shot multiple times, lowering chances of survival, or that there will be multiple victims.
“If you’re shot three to four times in rapid succession in your torso, that’s more likely to hit major arteries or organs,” he said.