New York Proposes Crackdown On Major Gun Company

New York may become the first state to bar gun companies from selling pistols that can easily be converted into machine guns.

Aproposed law, introduced Tuesday by Democratic state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, takes aim squarely at Glock. The Austrian company, whose polymer-framed pistols have played a dominant role in the handgun market since the 1980s, has faced growing criticism from gun safety groups for declining to modify a design that easily converts into an automatic weapon.

“Any business operating in New York State must take basic responsibility for its behavior in the marketplace,” Myrie said in a press release. “When an industry knows the harm its products are causing, but refuses to take meaningful steps to prevent it, government must step up to protect New Yorkers.” 

If the bill passes, gun dealers who continue to sell easily convertible pistols could face felony charges. 

A machine gun conversion device for a Glock hand gun in custody of the ATF Boston Bureau. The device can convert the Glock into a machine gun after the
A machine gun conversion device for a Glock hand gun in custody of the ATF Boston Bureau. The device can convert the Glock into a machine gun after the "switch" is installed. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The bill defines “convertible pistols” as those that “can be converted into a machine-gun solely by the installation or attachment of a pistol converter.” 

Aseparate proposed law would require firearms manufacturers to take “reasonable steps to prevent the installation and use of a pistol converter.” If that bill were to become law, companies that fail to take such action could be sued under a New York law passed in 2021 that allows people affected by gun violence to sue for damages in civil court. 

Glock did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But if Myrie’s bill were to become law, the company would likely challenge it, leading to a prolonged legal battle. 

Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, said the proposed law’s language was “very vague,” contending that aftermarket tinkerers would keep finding ways to modify firearms.

“An engineer or an inventor or a designer can overcome whatever the new characteristics of the redesigned firearm would be,” King told HuffPost. “Technology moves on.”

The spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Federation, Mark Oliva, said the bill as written would apply to far more guns than Glocks.

“This bill would outlaw any firearm that they very vaguely define as ‘easily modified,’” Oliva said. “At a minimum, that’s every striker-fired pistol out there.”

Glocks are not the only firearms that can be turned into a machine gun, but they are the ones that are most commonly altered in this way. Unlike many popular pistols, Glocks typically feature a removable slide plate. When a Glock pistol is fired, the recoil from the explosion within the gun forces the slide back. As it resets, a part called the trigger bar rises to catch it, which holds back the firing pin, preventing another shot.

Replacing the slide plate with a small device popularly known as a “Glock switch,” however, allows the shooter to toggle into fully automatic fire. The switch works by holding down the trigger bar, which prevents it from resetting.  

Such devices, generically called “autosears,” have long been available for many brands and types of firearms, including semiautomatic rifles. But the ease with which Glocks can be converted into machine guns has created a thriving black market targeting the company’s pistols.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recoveredmore than 31,000 such devices over the last five years. Many are shipped from foreign countries and sold on websites providing false information about their legality. They can be made cheaply on 3D printers.

Federal law classifies autosears, including Glock switches, as machine guns. Possessing one is a felony under federal law, even if the device is not attached to a firearm. 

Myrie’s proposed law would make possession of an autosear a state felony as well. 

The law aims to combat that rising public safety threat, said Nick Suplina, the senior vice president of law and police at Everytown for Gun Safety, which helped craft the measure. The devices are increasingly turning up at crime scenes nationwide — perhaps most famously in the2022 mass shooting that left six dead and 12 injured in Sacramento.

“Only one brand makes it so easy to turn a semiautomatic pistol into a machine gun and that brand is Glock,” Suplina told HuffPost. “A Glock switch costs $25 and a few minutes of time to put an automatic weapon in someone’s hands. That makes this the number one threat in the era of reemergence of machine guns.”

The nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety is also helping represent the city of Chicago in a lawsuit filed against Glock last month, which accuses the company of endangering city residents by refusing to make the guns harder to convert. 

Democrats control both houses of the New York legislature, and the state has a Democratic governor. New York has passed a flurry of gun control legislation — including a “red flag” law and raising the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21 — after an 18-year-old white supremacist killed 10 Black people in a mass shooting in Buffalo two years ago.