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Federal charges say Minneapolis man was making machine guns in his home

Investigators said they found enough parts to convert 10 handguns to fully automatic fire

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A 25-year-old Minneapolis man has been charged with converting multiple guns to fully automatic fire, violating federal bans on machine guns.

The criminal complaint against Aaron Malik Cato, filed in U.S. District Court, says customs and border protection officials intercepted a suspicious package headed to Cato's north Minneapolis home from Taiwan. An inspection found so-called auto sears, which can convert semi-automatic guns to continuous fire. An undercover agent delivered the package to Cato's home, and agents raided the house minutes later.

Investigators said they found enough parts in the package to convert 10 handguns to fully automatic fire.

Minneapolis police have been sounding alarms about a sharp rise in fully automatic gunfire on the city’s streets, saying they have tracked thousands of rounds going off in the past two years. Police officials presented data on gun violence to the Minneapolis City Council last month.

They said the city’s ShotSpotter system first noted automatic gunfire in August 2020, with 50 such activations in 2021, January through August. This year, the department said there were 183 such detections, involving nearly 2,000 rounds fired.

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The federal criminal complaint filed Sept. 1 said Cato admitted to importing the devices and said that he had been importing so-called switches and using 3D printers to create more of them in his home. Police seized handguns and AR-15-style long guns from his residence.

Federal agents said Cato had ordered a previous shipment of switches from Russia in October.

Cato was arraigned Wednesday and ordered held pending further proceedings.

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