Proliferation of 3D-printed 'ghost gun' parts used for semi-automatic upgrades has Houston officers calling for better regulation
Houston law enforcement officials report that the guns used by the 31-year-old Ronald Caballero to shoot three police officers last Thursday may have been upgraded from a semi-automatic to rapid-fire pistol using homebrew 3D-printing. Called "Glock switches," these 3D-printed parts are used to turn untraceable "ghost guns" into fully automatic weapons, and a witness had tipped law enforcement prior to the shootout that Ronald Caballero is engaged in 3D-printing exactly such components. According to the Houston Police Department's Special Investigations Unit, the incident developed at 2:45 p.m. on January 27:
Officers responded to a threat-to-life call at 1513 Tralle Street and were provided information on the suspect’s name and vehicle he was driving. Officers spotted the vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. The suspect fled in the vehicle and crashed at 2500 Hutchins Street. Officers pulled up behind the suspect to conduct a felony traffic stop. The suspect immediately got out of his vehicle and fired several shots at the officers, who returned fire and possibly struck the suspect in the neck area. Three officers were struck by the suspect’s gunfire, while the suspect fled on foot. He then carjacked a female citizen nearby and fled in her vehicle. Other officers then went to the suspect’s residence and observed the stolen vehicle parked outside. SWAT team officers made the scene and attempted to make contact with the suspect, but the suspect ignored them and barricaded himself inside the residence. As SWAT officers were on the scene, the suspect fired shots at them and officers returned fire. Hours later, the suspect surrendered to SWAT officers. He had sustained a gunshot wound and was transported to a hospital in stable condition.
Ronald Caballero is now charged with "three counts of attempted capital murder of a police officer and one count of aggravated robbery," but he had been on law enforcement's radar prior to the altercation precisely because of the suspicions that he is 3D-printing parts for homemade untraceable guns. The Houston Field Division of the Federal Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms informs they went from 33 Glock switch modifications confiscated in 2020, to 145 in 2021.
"If he can 3D print this stuff, he can sell it and he can sell it to a lot of people for a lot of money because of the allure of the 'ghost gun,' tips James Hillin, owner of the local Full Armor Firearms and Gun Range. According to the police report, both guns Caballero used during the incident - the one recovered in his car, and another one he had when he ran away - have been potentially modified for rapid fire with 3D-printed parts which is increasingly becoming a pressing issue to regulate and restrict further.