‘Just plain unacceptable’: Law enforcement working to address rise in fully automatic gunfire

Law enforcement and other officials are working to address a disturbing trend that involves fully automatic gunfire.

Minneapolis police are investigating a shooting that left one man dead and two others injured in a busy part of downtown Thursday morning near Fourth Street North and First Avenue North.

Police say it’s the 50th homicide this year in Minneapolis, and they believe fully automatic gunfire was involved.

Wednesday evening, Minneapolis Police say a 14-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to the face in the 1100 block of 24th Avenue North, and reports indicate there was fully automatic gunfire.

And early Tuesday morning, fully automatic gunfire hit homes and the Minneapolis Police 4th Precinct. Three people have since been charged in connection to that.

“It’s just plain unacceptable,” Minneapolis Police Officer Garrett Parten said. “The sound of gunfire tonight was described as fully automatic.”

Agencies across the Twin Cities are seeing the use of fully automatic gunfire on the rise.

“It’s been quite busy,” said Ashlee Sherrill, a public information officer with the St. Paul Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Sherrill says they’ve seen a steady increase since 2020.

“Now, we’re seeing incidents where there are very violent individuals not only possessing firearms illegally but those firearms have attachments to them,” Sherrill said.

She’s talking about auto sears, a nickel-sized attachment that can convert a pistol to a fully automatic weapon.

“Instead of the firearm shooting one round per pull of the trigger, a person could now, with that attachment, pull the trigger one time and go through the entire magazine,” Sherrill said.

The ATF says the attachments are shipped from overseas or even 3D printed.

“This is the most we’ve seen incidents with auto-sears in this area since I’ve worked here, certainly,” Sherrill said.

Thursday morning, Parten addressed the added risk to the public when officers respond to fully automatic gunfire.

“As more bullets are being fired from guns, it just makes the chance that other people, even innocent bystanders, are going to be struck,” Parten said.

To crack down on the problem, the ATF is working with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and using a new mobile lab to match shell casings to recovered firearms.

“It’s a great public risk and we want to make sure we’re handling it,” Sherrill said.

That, along with added resources taking on these crimes metro-wide, is something they hope will make a difference.

“Everybody’s on board and wants to solve the issue,” Sherrill said.

In Minneapolis, the Department of Public Safety is stepping up its presence throughout the summer, especially Thursdays through Saturdays.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to release the name of the man who died in Thursday morning’s shooting. One person was arrested.