Young Thug, Yak Gotti and Lil Duke are all being charged with possessing a "switch" - a Glock converted into a machine pistol. That's a whole different kind of trouble.
I sent a note to Atlanta’s ATF bureau a couple of weeks ago when a video of some kids with all the guns in their coats at a Salvation Army gym in Chicago started to make the rounds on the Internet. I wanted to know if federal agencies had started to see switches on the street in Atlanta. In the video, one of these kids opened up his jacket to reveal a “switch” — a Glock handgun that had a converter in the sear allowing it to fire as an automatic weapon.
“Are you out of your mind!” I literally shouted at my computer. “Why would you put that on a video with your face visible?!”
Fast forward to today. Jeffery “Young Thug” Williams, Martinez “Lil Duke” Arnold and Deamonte “Yak Gotti” Kendrick are all being charged with possession of a machine gun because a Glock 45 9mm handgun with an extended magazine and a converter switch was allegedly found at Williams’ house when they were arrested Monday evening.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s office also said police found other guns, 1.3 kilograms of weed, 31 bottles of promethazine codeine syrup and 20 bottles of YSL Slime Drink containing THC.
(An aside about YSL Slime Drank: the stuff appears to be a marketing effort based out of North Carolina, sold by SL Marketing Inc. in Wilmington through the now-defunct website SlimeDrank.com.)
But the gun charge is the wake-up call. As soon as I saw that, I started shouting again at my computer.
“You knew they were coming for you soon. You had to know. Your dad told my buddy you knew. I fucking knew and have been predicting it for months. The Eppinger arrest gave you a short time window to act. Your lawyer had to be screaming at you to get rid of illegal stuff before you were arrested. And you still had the one thing that guaranteed the FBI would sit up and take notice in your house!?"
Switches are great if you plan to kill bystanders while missing your intended target. Such was the case with the Sacramento massacre that left six people dead and a dozen more injured last month. At least one of the weapons used in the shootout was a Glock with an autosear conversion.
They’re more or less useless for anything else.
“They offer zero benefit,” said Luke Crawford, a firearms retailer and 2nd Amendment political advocate. Crawford has the big ATF licenses that allow him to make and sell silencers, and has fired a Glock switch before.
Even a 10-lb rifle will tend to rise and drift using automatic fire unless mounted. The first round will be on target. Successive rounds will spread feet and yards apart. Military rifles have long replaced automatic fire with three round burst settings, except for heavy weapons designed to suppress enemy return fire. Those weapons have belt-fed ammunition. A handgun modified for automatic fire is all but impossible to control.
“When I would see that somebody would buy one of those, it would be more for, I guess, the cool factor,” Crawford said, “or if they're, you know, trying to make other gangs more afraid of their gang or something like that.”
The Los Angeles Times noted that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized about 1,500 weapons modified with switches in 2021, five times as many as 2020.
“The Glock switch problem is not just a Glock switch problem there,” said Harry Foster, Assistant U.S. Attorney at Atlanta’s ATF field office. “It's a common one. You know, we see conversion devices like this for all kinds of different firearms. It's very prevalent.” He noted that switches have showed up in at least one case in Georgia so far, in Savannah.
The federal penalty for possession of a machine gun is up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The severity of a sentence will depend on federal sentencing guidelines, like whether it was being used to shoot someone or is simply a matter of possession, he said.
Its presence almost certainly complicates the case for Young Thug, Yak Gotti and Lil Duke. Each will be looking to lay possession off on one of the other two people charged. The threat of federal prosecution is likely an incentive to turn state’s evidence.