Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Undercover Hillsborough sheriff's sting nets 69 guns from felons

TAMPA — Hillsborough deputies noticed an increase in black-market guns on the streets, so they went undercover.

Their mission: to buy the firearms from the felons then arrest them.

In six months, deputies recovered 84 guns — 69 from convicted felons — including a machine gun and sawed-off shotguns.

They made 15 arrests in Operation Seize-Fire and have 18 outstanding warrants, Sheriff David Gee announced Friday. The youngest offender is 14.

At a news conference Friday, Gee held one of the weapons.

"Short-barreled shotguns are made for one reason: as an anti-personnel weapon," Gee said. "That's the only reason a weapon like this exists."

Both Gee and Virginia O'Brien, the special agent in charge of Tampa's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said they've noticed an increase in the number of illegal guns in circulation.

"At one time, guns were difficult to buy on the street," Gee said. "Now you can buy guns like you could by crack cocaine a few years ago."

O'Brien said a cumulative effect is partly to blame. Old firearms remain on the streets — one gun that an undercover deputy bought was reported stolen in 1982, for instance. And new guns continue to be rapidly manufactured, O'Brien said.

Gee is especially troubled that most of the officers recently killed in Florida were suspected to have been shot by felons, who cannot legally possess guns.

For him, that was motivation enough to launch the operation.

The youngest offender, a Tampa 14-year-old, already had convictions for burglary, grand theft and battery on a school employee, Gee said.

Though the boy arranged the sale to an undercover officer, he sent a friend to carry it out because he was confined by house arrest, Gee said.

The operation, though successful in taking dozens of illegal guns off the street, doesn't solve the problem, Gee said.

The Sheriff's Office is working with state legislators to increase prison time for felons caught in possession of firearms.

Gee wants to make it a first-degree felony instead of a second-degree felony, which could double offenders' prison time.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or

Undercover Hillsborough sheriff's sting nets 69 guns from felons 03/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 25, 2011 10:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Homeland security chief defends Kushner's alleged proposal for 'back channel' to the Russians as 'a good thing"


    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a "good thing" for the U.S. government.

    Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, listens during a meeting with small business leaders at the White House on Jan. 30. [Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford]
  2. After hard charging on health care in 2016, Marco Rubio is slow, careful


    As a presidential candidate, Marco Rubio pitched an Obamacare replacement and tore into Donald Trump for not having one. "What is your plan? What is your plan on health care? You don't have a plan," the Florida senator aggressively challenged in a February 2016 debate.

  3. Report: Florida counties part of liver disease cluster


    STUART — Four counties along Florida's Treasure Coast make up a cluster with high rates of both deaths from liver disease and algae blooms.

  4. Authorities say cocaine is making comeback in Florida


    FORT LAUDERDALE — Drug enforcement officials say traffickers are bringing more cocaine into South Florida than at any time in the past decade.

    Traffickers are bringing more cocaine into South Florida than at any time in the past decade, officials say.  [Times files]
  5. Amid escalating Russia crisis, Trump considers major staff changes


    President Donald Trump and his advisers, seeking to contain the escalating Russia crisis that threatens to consume his presidency, are considering a retooling of his senior staff and the creation of a "war room" within the White House, according to several aides and outside Trump allies.

    President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a retooling of his senior staff. [Doug Mills/The New York Times]