Bill to make ‘Glock switches’ illegal introduced in Alabama House

By: - April 11, 2023 6:59 am
A handgun on display

HB234 would criminalize possession, sale, use, manufacture, assembly, import, or transportation of a trigger activator, punishable by up to 20 years in prison as a Class B felony. (Photo © Aristide Economopoulos/for NJ Monitor)

A state representative filed a bill last week to ban trigger activators, such as “Glock switches.” 

HB234, sponsored by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston, would make it a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, for a person to possess, obtain, receive, sell, use, manufacture, assemble, import or transport a trigger activator. 

The bill would also require a person who owns, uses or buys or sells the firearm to inspect it and any attached parts to ensure the firearm is not illegal. If a person fails to inspect a gun with a trigger activator, they would be found to be knowingly in possession.

Trigger activators are small devices that can be added to a semi-automatic gun, which can effectively turn them into automatic firearms. A trigger activator keeps the trigger down to continuously fire bullets, without having to press the trigger for each shot. By keeping the trigger down, a handgun with a trigger activator would fire nonstop bullets until the finger is lifted.

Wood said in a phone interview on Monday that while federal law already banned trigger activators, a state statute would allow prosecution by state officials. He said he felt the activators made the firearm more difficult to control.

“And when you shoot it one time, it goes where you want and after that it goes crazy,” he said. “You have no control over it. And I don’t want a gun I don’t have control over, and I’ve got several of them.”

Wood said that this bill is not an infringement on Alabamian’s Second Amendment rights.

“It’s never our intention to stop anyone from having a firearm in any way,” Wood said. “But I’ve seen this thing in action. And when you shoot it one time, it goes where you want and after that it goes crazy.”

Rep. Phillip Ensler, D-Montgomery, said that he planned to file a similar bill, but he is looking forward to sitting with Wood to reconcile the two bills.

“I’m really glad and encouraged to hear that that’s been filed, and my feeling is that, ultimately, it’s not about who introduces it, it’s about – is it going to keep our communities safer and protect lives,” Ensler said.

Ensler said that since there is no state statute for possessing these trigger activators, when enforcement finds them, suspects may only be able to be charged with another crime.

“But what they’re not able to do is have an additional law to hold people accountable for having those devices on their guns,” Ensler said.

He said he is mindful of not over sentencing or over incarcerating people, said these deadly devices are “traumatizing communities.”

James Moses, president of the Alabama State Rifle and Pistol Association, said that they do not have a position on the bill, but he said that he personally thinks it’s a “waste of time.” He said these devices can be acquired easily by anyone since it can be easily manufactured at home.

“Unless you get the guy with one in his gun, it’ll be hard to prosecute,” he said. “And if he had it in his gun and uses it illegally, there’s going to be a whole lot more charges other than having a bullet activator in his hands.”

Wood said that he looked at it from a safety and not necessarily law enforcement perspective. 

“Someone maybe goes to a volleyball game to watch the kids play volleyball, and they got it in their backpack and they lay it down by the fence. Some kids come over and kick it. Well, you never know what that could do – if that thing wants to go off, it’s not going to stop until it’s empty,” he said.

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Alander Rocha
Alander Rocha

Alander Rocha is a journalist based in Montgomery, and he reports on government, policy and healthcare. He previously worked for KFF Health News and the Red & Black, Georgia's student newspaper. He is a Tulane and Georgia alumnus with a two-year stint in the U.S. Peace Corps.