Gun violence is down in Minneapolis, but auto sears may be causing more widespread injury

Auto sears, also known as switches, turn traditional handguns like the one shown above into automatic weapons.
Kenny Luo on Unsplash

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said at least one assault weapon was likely used in a shooting that injured eight people near East Franklin and Chicago avenues Sunday night.

While he did not offer more specifics on the weapon, he and other law enforcement officials in the region have said they’re seeing an increase in the use of auto sears, also known as switches, that turn traditional handguns into automatic weapons. And those cheap, widely available parts are leading to incidents that injure more people despite an overall decrease in gun violence, said New York Times correspondent Ernesto Londoño.

“Once you pull the trigger, the weapon becomes very unwieldy,” he said. “In addition to the people who are the intended target of gun violence, bystanders are increasingly in harm’s way.”

Londoño, who is based in St. Paul, has been reporting on the rise of auto sears nationwide. He spoke with a Hennepin Healthcare emergency medicine doctor who said he’s seeing more gunshot victims who were bystanders.

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SoundThinking, which was previously called ShotSpotter, has reported a 49 percent increase in the sound of automatic fire in cities where it has audio sensors, Londoño added. That data includes Minneapolis gunfire.

Just last week, Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger charged two alleged gang members for owning guns outfitted with auto sears. And the nonfatal shooting of a Minneapolis police officer Aug. 11 involved one.

Londoño said prosecutors across the country are trying to crack down on the illegal devices.

For more, click on the audio player above or read Londoño’s reporting here.