Converting Your Firearm to a Machine Gun in Mississippi: Understand the Penalties

Fully automatic weapons are generally reserved for military personnel in the United States, and any civilian caught with a machine gun faces serious consequences. Due to the rise in 3D printing and other gun manufacturing technologies, it is now easier than ever to “upgrade” a semi-automatic firearm to a fully automatic gun. Machine gun conversion devices – known by law enforcement officials as “MCDs” – are becoming increasingly common in Mississippi. On the street, they are known as “auto sears,” “chips,” or “switches.” In 2021, the ATF reported a 570% increase in MCD seizures. What happens if you are caught with an auto sear in Mississippi?

Mississippi US Attorney Warns that MCDs are Flooding the Streets

In May of 2024, US Attorney Todd Gee warned that the authorities in Mississippi were seeing a dramatic increase in MCDs. This warning came directly after a defendant pleaded guilty to the possession of a machine gun. He had been arrested after a high-speed chase that reached speeds of 120 miles per hour, and police found two fully automatic Glock pistols on his person after finally catching him. The authorities were pursuing the man because he had previously filmed himself firing his fully automatic machine pistol out of the same vehicle. He faces up to 10 years in prison for possession of a machine gun. 

Mississippi Lawmakers Promise Strict Penalties for Auto Sears

While Mississippi is generally more lenient in its gun laws compared to other states, lawmakers have taken a stand against MCDs. Even the National Rifle Association supports strict action against those who possess auto sears, as the organization recognizes that these devices are almost exclusively used by violent criminals and extremists. 

That being said, Mississippi does not yet have a state law that bans machine gun conversion devices. Possession of a machine gun is a federal offense. This has led lawmakers to push for a state-specific law against auto sears. In March of 2024, senators announced a new bill that could create local laws against these devices. The bill was named after a deputy shot and killed with an illegally modified fully automatic weapon during a traffic stop. 

Auto Sears are Easier to Make Than Ever Before

The rise of 3D printing has made the manufacture of auto sears easier than ever. Anyone with a relatively simple 3D printer can construct hundreds of auto sears within a few days. Not only does this make MCDs more common in the criminal world, but it also pushes their price down significantly. The laws of supply and demand give criminals access to auto sears for about $20 each, according to some reports. 

Undercover investigations have revealed 3D printing home factories and backroom operations in auto mechanic shops. In 2023, a man in Jackson was sentenced to 14 years in prison for 3D printing numerous auto sears in his home. According to federal law, possessing an auto sear is the same thing as possessing a machine gun. Fully automatic weapons have become incredibly common on the street, to the point where most criminals now dismiss semi-automatic weapons as insufficient. 

What is the Difference Between an Auto Sear and a Bump Stock?

Somewhat confusingly, it is legal to own a “bump stock” in Mississippi – but not a machine gun conversion kit. Both kits can increase the rate of fire, but only bump stocks are legal in the Magnolia State. Although there was some confusion about the legality of bump stocks, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision clarified this issue and greenlit these devices in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. 

Why are bump stocks legal, but not MCDs? Technically speaking, a bump stock does not make a firearm fully automatic. It simply allows the user to fire a semi-automatic gun as quickly as possible. One could argue that if you had a very quick trigger finger, you could fire an unmodified semi-automatic gun at the same rate as a firearm upgraded with a bump stock. Many gun enthusiasts do not like bump stocks because these upgrades dramatically reduce accuracy. 

On the other hand, auto sears turn firearms into “real” machine guns. The device is very simple. Pistol modifications override the trigger bar, allowing the user to hold down the trigger and discharge multiple rounds. In contrast, a bump stock enables faster fire rates – but each trigger pull still only discharges a single round. 

Work With an Experienced Firearms Defense Attorney in Mississippi

If you were caught with an auto sear or a similar device, contact a firearms defense attorney in Mississippi right away. Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. has been fighting for the rights of defendants in the Magnolia State for many years. Although the penalties for possessing a machine gun are serious, you may be able to fight your charges effectively. The best way to assess your legal options is by booking a consultation. Reach out today to discuss potential defense strategies.

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