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FOCUS: Customs agents find more 'Glock switches' coming into Kentucky

With two of the top six busiest cargo airports in the country, Kentucky is on the frontlines in the fight against illegal "Glock switches."

ERLANGER, Ky. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Kentucky have a new item to look for when they're vetting international packages.

"It's a huge, huge trend right now," Eric Zizelman, chief of the CBP office at the Port of Cincinnati, said.

Last October, FOCUS looked into how the Louisville area was seeing a surge in tiny devices called "Glock Switches." 

These illegal devices can turn a semi-automatic Glock pistol into a fully automatic machine gun that can fit in your waistband.

They are illegal under federal law because they are considered machine guns on their own, and no machine guns made after 1986 can be registered in the United States.

Credit: WHAS
The green device is a 3D-printed Glock switch. The black device is believed to have been shipped to the US from abroad.

These switches are hard to get off the streets because they can be 3D printed at home or mailed in from another country.

Just this month, a Louisville man was arrested on March 13 after he allegedly had a Glock switch shipped from China to an address in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood. Police say the address was different than his home address.

According to an arrest report, CBP agents working at the DHL delivery hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport found the switch and then contacted local authorities to do a "controlled delivery."

Zizelman said between March 2022 and March 2023, his agents seized 78 Glock switches or "auto sears," which do the same thing to an AR-15.

"The shipments that we've intercepted --of the 78-- they're going all over the country, not just in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana or the Tri-State area," he said. "We've seen them come to this area, but we've seen them go elsewhere as well."

Zizelman said every foreign package into the United States gets scanned for radiation. 

From that point, agents use intel from the CBP National Targeting Center in Virginia, intel from other agencies, and officer intuition to decide which packages need additional screening.

The additional screening could include X-rays, drilling a hole into a package, or, if necessary, fully opening the suspicious package, Zizelman said.

Credit: WHAS11 News
Customs agents in Kentucky say "Glock switches" are not only being shipped into Kentucky, but they're also passing through to other states.

The ATF Louisville Field Office told WHAS11 that it is aware of 19 Glock switches being seized in Kentucky within the first few months of 2023.

In the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of these devices being found in Kentucky. 

According to officials, in 2020 no Glock switches were found in the Commonwealth. But a year later, there were 13.

Last year, 125 Glock switches were found in Kentucky, an over 800% increase.

“Our staff –as I said before—masters in their craft," Zizelman said. "They’re dedicated to making sure they keep those things off the streets. And keeping the American public safe from things they may know or they may not know."

Credit: WHAS
The number of Glock switches seized in Kentucky has gone up over 800% this year. Source: ATF Louisville

The ATF and CBP were not able to talk about the recent arrest in Louisville since it's still pending a federal grand jury indictment. 

Cassandra Mullins, public information officer for the Louisville ATF, said the agency has partnered with many local and federal law enforcement on the active, ongoing investigation.

"It’s not a coincidence that on some of the shooting scenes we see now, there are more shots fired and more casings at crime scenes as evidence of these machine gun conversion devices being put out on our streets," she said. "We take the possession of these devices seriously and we will continue looking for ways to interdict them and stop them from threatening the safety of our communities."

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