Gun probe yields hundreds of weapons used in crimes


The Associated Press

Operation Flea Collar, a two-year undercover investigation into the illegal sale of guns at two flea markets and a gun show in Alabama, highlights the reach and the impact of weapons trafficking.

Last year, law enforcement officers from 20 agencies in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee recovered more than 700 weapons _ they purchased 166 and seized another 556 from about a dozen dealers. The guns included small-caliber pistols, revolvers, machine guns and high-powered "Streetsweeper" shotguns.

All 11 people who were initially indicted _ several are in their 60s and 70s _ pleaded guilty to a variety of charges such as selling guns without a license or selling to people they believed were felons. Their sentences range from 27 months in prison to three years home detention, according to federal authorities.

What's striking about this case is the sheer magnitude of weapons associated with those charged: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives believes these 11 people _ along with two others later arrested _ had trafficked 70,000 guns over the last several decades.

The ATF also says those charged had previously sold 267 guns that have been linked to homicides, assaults, robberies, drug and sex crimes and other illegal activities.

One gun was used in the attempted murder of a Chicago police officer, another was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme in New York City, according to the ATF.

The guns were found across the country, from Southern states such as Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia to Buffalo, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago.

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