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Some handguns, such as Glocks, can be modified by small devices so that the weapons mimic automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger. (Credit: Marion County Prosecutor’s Office)

Glock switches and other machine gun conversion devices are now officially illegal in Indiana

Apr 20, 2023

Machine gun conversion devices — commonly known as Glock switches or auto sears — are officially considered illegal for most people under Indiana law following the signing of House Bill 1365 by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday. 

The devices can be used to convert semi-automatic rifles and handguns into weapons capable of fully automatic fire.

The governor’s signing caps a monthslong process first detailed by State Affairs that involved Marion County law enforcement asking for help from state lawmakers. 

What the new law does

Really, the bill was a matter of clarity. Many believed the weapons were already barred under state law, just as they are under federal law. 

Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, carried the legislation and garnered support from the Republican supermajorities, which was essential to the bill’s passage. 

Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis (Credit: Indiana House Democrats)

But police officers and prosecutors in Marion County have seen a rapid spike in their usage over the last two years, including in homicides. Some crime scenes were littered with more than 50 shell casings. 

It’s rare to see an Indianapolis Democrat move any legislation involving firearms. Just last week, for example, Senate Republicans honored National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre on the chamber’s floor. 

"The significance of passing a piece of bipartisan gun legislation in Indiana is not lost on me,” Gore, who also serves as a captain with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement. “I know this bill will save the lives of citizens and cops alike and make our streets safer for Hoosier families.”

Why the bill matters

When the conversion devices began appearing on Indianapolis’ streets, Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears turned to a little-used statute to begin criminally charging people who carried the weapons. He charged them with possession of a machine gun, even though the weapons were not technically machine guns. (One firearm that is commonly modified, for example, is a Glock handgun.) 

One defendant appealed the charge against him, essentially arguing that state law was not clear. That matter remains under consideration by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Maj. Matt Thomas testifies in support of House Bill 1365 during a committee meeting on Feb. 15, 2023. (Credit: Ryan Martin)

That was enough to worry Marion County law enforcement officers, who had been increasingly relying on Mears’ strategy to battle the growing number of converted weapons. 

“We just need to add something so that the courts are clear,” Chris Bailey, the assistant police chief in Indianapolis, told State Affairs in December, “and we don’t lose the ability to charge people as we move forward and hold them accountable.”

What happens next

Gore asked fellow lawmakers to include an emergency provision in his bill. 

Whereas most laws do not take effect until July, the provision enabled Gore’s bill to become law immediately. 

Contact Ryan Martin on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or at [email protected].

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Header image: Some handguns, such as Glocks, can be modified by small devices so that the weapons mimic automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger. (Credit: Marion County Prosecutor’s Office)