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TSA Seizes Weapons and ATF Investigates Modification Imports and North Korea Conducts SLBM Test

Updated: May 20

May 4 - May 11, 2022 | Issue 6 - Weapons and Tactics (W/T)

Annabelle Hueber, (W/T) Team

Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor



Weapons seized at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport[1]

Date: May 4, 2022

Location: Arlington County, Virginia, USA

Parties involved: Transportation Security Administration; Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

The event: An individual was found to be carrying 23 knives while walking through security at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) detected several types of weapons in carry-on bags using a security checkpoint X-Ray machine, containing disposable scalpels, folding locking-blade knives, martial arts throwing knives, a dagger, switchblade, and pair of brass knuckles. The person of interest was issued a citation. The TSA has published several press releases pertaining to the regularity of weapons detections, and subsequent seizures, within airports and transportation hubs.[2] Many weapons, including firearms and blades, can be stored in check-in luggage if packaged appropriately and rendered safe prior to flying.[3] However, many Americans, including high notoriety government officials, have been found to break TSA weapons regulations several times. Breaking TSA weapons rules may require the involvement of law enforcement, leading to weapons seizures and fines up to $13,000 for repeat offenders.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Criminals will likely find alternative means of smuggling weapons within restricted travel spaces, such as attempting to gain access to commercial entrances and loading docks of airports by recruiting airport employees. This will very likely make it easier to insert weapons past security checkpoints, almost certainly putting the lives of civilians and TSA employees at high risk. Criminals and terrorists will likely hide rigid plastic weapons, such as small 3D printed daggers, within shoe soles and belt buckles to evade X-Ray machine detection.

  • The influx in TSA weapon seizures and incidents will likely promote a revision of the repercussions imposed against criminals, such as more significant fines and an upgrade of misdemeanor crimes to felonies. It is likely that persons who have breached TSA guidelines will not be deterred by fines and warnings after being detained, likely leading to secondary offenses. The newly enacted TSA prohibited items outreach programs and high-profile seizures will likely remind persons to stow weapons during the check-in process.

Date: May 6, 2022

Location: Alabama, USA

Parties involved: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); Tuscaloosa Police; Alabama; Dropshipping Providers

The event: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is investigating the importation of parts designed to convert semi-automatic Glock pistols into fully-automatic machine guns. These devices, referred to as “Glock Switches”, allow for easy modification of the trigger assembly of a Glock pistol - allowing the shooter to toggle between semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. “Glock Switches” mimics the functions of Glock’s fully-automatic pistols - the Glock G18 and G18C - which are regulated like machine guns under federal legislation. The ATF has seized Glock Switches in multiple municipalities of Alabama, including Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. Investigations indicate that “Glock Switches” are being imported from overseas, while others have been manufactured through DIY 3D printing methods. Experts say that “Glock Switch” modifications increase the rate of fire “while greatly decreasing its accuracy.”[5] “Glock Switches” are defined as machine guns under the National Firearms Act, “any part designed and intended solely and exclusively or combination of parts designed and intended to convert a weapon into a machinegun.”[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • It is almost certain that importing “Glock Switches” from foreign countries will continue without ATF detection. International manufacturers will likely continue manufacturing illegal goods by establishing multiple shell companies to conduct undetected operations. Criminal syndicates are likely to distribute and popularize “Glock Switches” to overwhelm law enforcement agencies, generate a profit and supply criminal networks with weapons. .

  • Criminals, firearm enthusiasts, and dropshipping companies are very likely to utilize affordable 3D printing technology to print Glock select-fire backplate units. The affordable nature of 3D printed weapons will likely attract more criminals seeking to smuggle firearms. It is almost certain that the ATF and US Intelligence Community are tracking the distribution of machine gun schematics on the internet and dark web, likely supporting sting operations to detect, detain and destroy illegal machinegun parts in US jurisdictions.

Date: May 7, 2022

Location: Sinpo, South Hamgyong, North Korea

Parties involved: North Korea; North Korean Military; North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un; US; US Intelligence Community; Japan; Japanese Defense Ministry; Japanese Coast Guard; South Korea; South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS); South Korean President Moon Jae-in; Incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol; Taiwan; United Nations (UN)

The event: Around 0507 hours GMT on Saturday, North Korea conducted a SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) test near a naval port in Sinpo, South Hamgyong region. Officials from Japan and South Korea estimate that the projectile flew for 370 miles (600km) at a 30-40 mile (50-60 km) altitude, within unknown projectile velocity. The US Intelligence Community estimates that the North Korean Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site could be ready to conduct a nuclear test within a month - aligning with Kim Jong-un’s claims that North Korea is accelerating its domestic nuclear weapons program. The SLBM test coincides with an imminent South Korean presidential changeover and the Taiwanese presidential election.[7] This was North Korea’s 15th missile firing this year, following a ballistic missile test on Wednesday, May 4, detected by the South Korean JCS and Japanese Coast Guard.[8]

Analysis & Implications:

  • US and UN efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula will likely stall unless either party can successfully bring North Korea to diplomatic mediation talks. North Korea will likely import weapons-grade enriched uranium from the proliferation black market to conduct a nuclear weapons test within 1-3 months. The US will likely install additional nuclear blast detection units along the Korean Peninsula to detect a North Korean nuclear test.

  • There is a roughly even chance that North Korea will increase military demonstrations and weapons tests to provoke the incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. Further North Korean weapons tests will likely reveal new weapons systems, such as nuclear warhead delivery platforms. South Korea and the US will likely release statements of dissent following North Korean military action, as a heightening of military presence will almost certainly exacerbate regional tensions.


 

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1]dca-knives-1-of-5-5-4-22_0” by Transportation Security Administration licensed under public domain

[2] Man cited after TSA agents find 23 weapons packed inside carry-on bag, ABC News, May 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/man-cited-tsa-agents-find-23-weapons-packed/story?id=84522092

[3] What Can I Bring?, Transportation Security Administration, n.d., https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all

[4] Rep. Madison Cawthorn caught bringing loaded gun through airport security, ABC News, April 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/rep-madison-cawthorn-caught-bringing-loaded-gun-airport/story?id=84322678

[5] Quarter-sized device showing up in Mobile converts pistols into dangerous automatic weapon, NBC15 News, May 2022, https://mynbc15.com/news/local/quarter-sized-device-showing-up-in-mobile-converts-pistols-into-dangerous-automatic-weapon

[6] Firearms - Guides - Importation & Verification of Firearms - National Firearms Act Definitions - Machinegun, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, April 2018, https://www.atf.gov/firearms/firearms-guides-importation-verification-firearms-national-firearms-act-definitions-0

[7] ‘Dangers of miscalculation’: North Korea fires another missile, Aljazeera, May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/7/north-korea-tests-suspected-submarine-launched-missile

[8] North Korea launches ballistic missile in 14th test this year, Aljazeera, May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/4/north-korea-fires-unidentified-projectile-towards-east-seoul

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