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HILLSBOROUGH CO., Fla. – Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee says his department has taken 66 illegal guns and a plethora of drugs off the street during undercover buys from 51 criminals.
Seven of the guns were reported stolen and six of the people arrested are convicted felons.
He says the operation started when his detectives noticed more drug dealers carrying guns and an 11 percent uptick in aggravated assaults.
“We didn’t target a certain group or gang or anything. We went all around the county.” Sheriff Gee said.
He says his detectives would ask the drug dealers a simple question.
“Hey I’m a convicted felon. Do you know where I can get a gun? I need a gun.” He said.
It’s illegal in Florida to sell a gun to a convicted felon. The Sheriff says in a matter of weeks, 51 people said ‘yes’ to that question.
ABC Action News covered two of the arrests last month: David Robinson of Apollo Beach was arrested in early January for selling 7 guns to undercover detectives. His wife denies that he thought the detectives were convicted felons, but his attorney argues that it doesn’t matter.
“The detective, by virtue of being a detective, was qualified (to own a gun).” Attorney Robin Fuson said.
He also cites certain exemptions in Florida Statute for law enforcement in investigations of drugs and prostitution. There is no such exemption in the statute for selling firearms.
State Attorney Andrew Warren says the warrants have already been review and approved by a judge and he believes the charges are strong.
“The defense attorneys will raise their defenses, that’s what they’re supposed to do, and we’ll overcome them to make sure that people who are selling guns, whether they’re dangerous or not, if they’re facilitating dangerous criminals, they’re taken off our streets.” Warren said.
The Sheriff believes many more of the guns were also stolen, but they can’t be tracked. He says some may not have been reported and the legal owner’s of others may not have known the serial numbers of their stolen firearms.
HCSO is still working to see if any of the guns were used in violent crimes.