A Little Rock man who pleaded no contest to a federal charge of possession of a machine gun was sentenced to two years in prison by a federal judge in Little Rock on Thursday.
Kevin Brown, 23, was arrested June 6, 2019, by Little Rock police for fleeing and having a suspended driver's license. Following an inventory search of the car Brown was driving, a Glock 9mm pistol was found that had a "Glock switch" installed that enables the pistol to shoot automatically. Brown pleaded no contest in federal court to the charge, saying he had never shot the pistol and thought the switch was an original part because it was stamped with the Glock logo.
Brown's attorney, Megan Wilson of Little Rock, referencing a sentencing memorandum filed by Erin Cassinelli, for whom she was substituting, asked U.S. District Judge James M. Moody Jr. to consider a non-incarceration sentence such as probation or home detention in lieu of sending her client to prison.
According to the sentencing memorandum, Brown's mental health assessment indicates that he is subject to post-traumatic stress disorder from having been shot three times in the past four years.
Wilson said that Brown did not know at the time of his arrest the Glock had been modified. It was for that reason he pleaded no contest to the charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon called ATF task force officer Michael Gibbons to testify to the nature of the Glock switch. Gibbons, a North Little Rock homicide detective, also works extensively with the ATF and has testified in a number of prosecutions involving automatic fire conversion devices for Glock pistols and AR-15 style rifles.
Gibbons described the Glock switch and how the conversion device functions. He said the switch on Brown's pistol allowed the gun to shoot in semi-auto or auto mode, but he said homemade switches made on 3-D printers have no such capability and can only fire automatically until the magazine is emptied.
"Are these Glock switches dangerous?" Gordon asked.
"Very dangerous," Gibbons replied.
Gibbons said the devices are being recovered more and more often at the scenes of drive-by shootings, having found favor with local gangs because they provide the capability to send more rounds downrange in a short amount of time.
He said often, instead of hitting their intended targets, "we're seeing a drastic increase in collateral damage" from people getting caught in the crossfire.
"When you have a Glock switch in there," he said, "there no controlling it. When you pull the trigger you're just spraying everything in your path."
Wilson maintained that Brown had never fired the gun and thought the switch attached to it was a legitimate part of the assembly, a contention that Gordon said strained credulity.
"It's completely unbelievable that Mr. Brown did not know that he had a Glock switch on that gun," Gordon said. "It's completely unbelievable that when he bought this gun, the person didn't explain to him what the Glock switch did."
Gordon referred to the sentencing memorandum that said Brown bought the gun for self-defense after having been shot three times by the time he turned 21.
"He's been shot three times?" Gordon asked. "I think there's a little more going on and that little more is why he had this gun."
Gordon said the fact that there were two fully loaded magazines found with the pistol was a strong indicator that the gun was intended for more than just self-defense.
"He was ready to go," he said. "Everything points to this young man knowing exactly what this gun did."
Gordon said the proliferation of such conversion devices and the danger they pose has driven the U.S. attorney's office to adopt a zero tolerance policy to such devices.
"There's no lawful reason whatsoever for this Glock switch," he said. "It's purpose is to cause mass destruction as fast as possible ... and they're all over the streets now. They're showing up all over the place, used in many different shootings -- and so we're on a crusade to make these hot potatoes, where no one wants to have one for any reason whatsoever, no matter how old they are or what their conditions are. We're going to run the cases here and we're going to ask for prison time."
In addition to two years in prison, Moody sentenced Brown to serve three years on supervised release once he leaves prison.
"The only reason I'm not sentencing you higher in the guideline range is because of your lack of criminal history," the judge said. "You admitted to having this gun for self-defense ... so it's anticipated that you were going to be discharging this gun inside the city limits or thereabouts in return fire ... the damage you could have done when discharging a gun with 21 rounds of ammunition in a pistol that you couldn't control, there's no telling who you could hit."