glock switch
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Creator of the Infamous Glock Switch ‘Regrets’ Making the Device

Inventor Jorge Leon said he created the Glock switch to support law enforcement and military users, but he now regrets the design.

When Venezuelan inventor Jorge Leon created the Glock switch back in the 1980s, he did so to support law enforcement and military users. But now, he says he regrets making the device because of how often it's used for criminal activity.

"After seeing and reading about all those deaths, those unnecessary deaths of youngsters, of police officers, of broken families, I don't feel nice about that, I don't feel good," Leon told ABC News. "I regret filing that patent because ... my technology, which was very well protected at that time, is free for everybody."

According to reports, Leon's U.S. patent for the Glock switch expired in 2016, so he no longer has any legal recourse to stop others from selling his design. Experts say a Glock switch, used to transform a Glock pistol from semi-auto to full-auto, can be bought for as little as $20 online.

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Machine guns are heavily regulated

Federal law heavily regulates machine guns alongside short-barreled long guns and silencers. Obtaining one requires multiple steps beyond a background. They include paying a $200 tax and getting the head area law enforcement officer to approve the purchase.

What's more, experts say there are a limited number of machine guns available for purchase by the general public as lawmakers prohibited the sale of such parts beyond 1986. Yet, gun makers with a specific firearms license can manufacture machine guns for authorized users. And that's how some own Glock switches legally.

Why Glock switches are infamous

While machine guns are understandably a concern for public safety, Glock switches pose a very specific problem. The reason is the switch will only operate with Glock pistols. In 2023, the U.S. Justice Department started launching campaigns raising awareness of the unique threat they pose. Between 2017 and 2023, law enforcement across the country recovered 500% more Glock switches than the years before.

With that said, lawmakers across the country — in both Democratic- and Republican-controlled states — have been passing laws banning the device. Additionally, some areas are going a step further. The city of Chicago sued Glock and New York lawmakers proposed banning the handgun brand in an attempt to pressure the company to alter the design. They said they want to see Glock design its pistols so they're incompatible with Glock switches.